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The Relationship Between Party Elites and Their Grassroots: A Bottom-Up Effect?

Thu, August 30, 12:00 to 1:30pm, Sheraton, Beacon H


The paper analyses the link between political elites and grassroots participation, by focusing on the relationship between party leaders and rank-and-file members. The aim of the paper is to clarify whether and to what extent the variations of party membership figures could affect the outcomes of leadership selection. We argue that when parties are facing crisis in their ability to recruit new party members there will be higher incentives to select new party leaders in order to promote new party image, and enhance the idea of party change. We distinguished the outcomes of party leadership selection into two main scenarios: confirmation vs turnover. In case of leadership turnover, we also considered two further dimensions of change by taking into account the personal profile of the newly selected leaders (in terms of age, gender and political experience). We defined as continuity the case when the new leader has personal features alike the incumbent leader, while we defined as renewal if the party leadership race resulted into the selection of a new party leader characterized by a different personal profile (younger, female and not experienced at national level). This operationalization of the concept of party leadership change allowed us to test how variations in party membership (IV) size could affect the party leadership selections in terms of both turnover (DV1) and renewal (DV2). Our study is based on two international datasets: MAPP's party members' dataset (van Haute et al., 2017), and COSPAL COmparative Study of PArty Leaders dataset (Pilet and Cross, 2014). Our findings suggest that a decrease membership leads to a higher possibility of turnover, while as regards renewal results are more nuanced and less strong.