POLS 505: Political Parties

Spring 2008

Thursday, 3:30-6:10

DuSable 464


Dr. Matt Streb

Office: Zulauf Hall 407

E-Mail Address: mstreb@niu.edu

Office Hours:  W, 8:30-11:30 or by appointment


Course Description:  Scholars have long debated the relevance and strength of American political parties.  In fact, few areas of political science have received as much attention.  This seminar will introduce you to some of the “classic” works on political parties as well as some recent, important contributions to the literature.  Although the founders were skeptical of political parties, political scientists have argued that they are essential in a democracy.  E.E. Schattschneider went so far as to write that “modern democracy is unthinkable save in terms of parties.”  Political scientists are generally in agreement over the importance of political parties, but there is considerable disagreement over the nonnormative question of how strong American political parties are and the normative question of how strong political parties should be. 

We will spend much of our time answering nonnormative questions regarding party strength.  It is important to note, however, that neither the readings we will cover in this course nor the topics addressed are comprehensive.  Indeed, because of time constraints, we will pay little attention to important questions regarding comparative political parties, third parties, and party primaries.  Still, the seminar will prepare the PhD students for their comprehensive exams and will help the masters’ students develop potential starred papers.   


Grading:  Students will receive four grades over the course of the semester:


Final Exam (30%):  The final exam will consist of an essay question that will resemble a comprehensive exam question given by the department’s American Government faculty.  The exam will be a take home final and will be open note, open book/article.  Students will receive the final exam on Wednesday, May 7th at 3:30 via email and will have 24 hours to complete the exam.  Students must turn in the exam at the beginning of class on May 8th.  The examination must be completed to earn a passing grade and credit for the course.  However, students enrolled under an audit option are exempt.   


Research Paper (36%):  Each student is required to write an original research paper on a topic related to political parties (that receives my approval).  In the paper, students should develop and test empirically a hypothesis.  The paper is not a research design or a literature review.  The goal is to have the student create a paper that is suitable for presentation at a regional or national political science conference or that could be accepted as a department starred paper.  As a result, students will give a formal presentation of their papers during the final class period.  The paper will be discussed in greater detail in class. 

Students must have their research question approved by me by February 7th.   Students should set a time to meet with me before the 7th to discuss ideas for the papers.  On the 7th, students should turn in an abstract that includes the research question and a preliminary hypothesis or hypotheses.  They will be required to turn in a literature review on March 21st and a brief paper explaining the data and methods used in the paper on April 11th.  Failure to hand in any of the assignments on time will result in an automatic failure on the paper, which is tantamount to failing the course.   The paper will be due May 1st.  To earn a passing grade in the course, this assignment must be completed.  However, students enrolled in the course under an audit option are exempt. 


Weekly Memos (24%):  Students are required to write a one-page single-spaced reaction paper to the readings each week.  Students are to highlight arguments that they found most interesting, make general overall comments about the arguments in the readings, and ask questions about areas in which they are confused.  Papers are due to me via e-mail by midnight the day of class class.  Students who do not turn in a paper by midnight will receive a 0 for the paper, NO EXCEPTIONS!!  Students who do not hand in more than two memos will automatically receive a course grade of “F.”  Memos will be graded based on 0-2 points.  A two-point paper will raise intriguing questions, provide insightful comments, and integrate concepts analyzed in more than one of the readings.  Students enrolled in the course under an audit option are exempt.     


Participation (10%):  For the most part, this class will be conducted in a seminar format.  Therefore, it is imperative that students actively participate in class.  Students are expected to contribute comments about the readings and questions about the material.  This class depends greatly on quality participation in order for you to get the most out of it.  All required readings for a particular week are to be completed by everyone before arriving in class; and each member of the class should be prepared to summarize, react to, and draw from the readings in depth.  Also, your research presentation will be part of your participation grade (although you will not be given a grade for the presentation).

            In general, relevant in-class participation will be evaluated according to the following scale, with plus and minus grades being possible.

                        A=regular and thoughtful participation

                        B=occasional and thoughtful participation

                        C=regular attendance, but little or no participation

Students who miss more than two classes will fail the class, although students are not expected to miss any classes barring a family emergency or major illness.   


Course Policies:


1.  Makeup Exam:  I will only give a makeup final examination under extraordinary circumstances.  If such circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam.  To keep the process fair for everyone in the course, students may be asked to support requests for makeup examinations with documentation.  A missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a zero and a course grade of “F” as opposed to an incomplete.


2.  Students with Disabilities:  Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


3.  Late Assignments:  I will not accept late weekly memos.  If I do not receive the memo via email by midnight on the day of class, you will receive a zero for the assignment.  Students who miss more than two weekly memos will receive a course grade of “F” as opposed to an incomplete.  A research paper submitted after the due date will be penalized by a deduction of ten points (one letter grade) per day.  Since students will have had several weeks to write their papers, this standard will be waived only in extreme circumstances.


4.  Incomplete Requests:  Such petitions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances.  The professor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines.  If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the professor’s discretion.   


5.  Academic Dishonesty:  In preparing for their work and meeting the requirements of this course, members of this seminar are expected to adhere to all the rules, regulations, and standards set forth by the Department of Political Science, Graduate School, Northern Illinois University, and the scholarly community.  This statement encompasses intentional and unintentional plagiarism; cheating on examinations; using, purchasing, or stealing others’ work; misusing library materials, and so forth.  Failure to honor these rules, regulations, and standards could result in a failing course grade and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.   



Required Texts:


Aldrich, John H.  1995.  Why Parties?  The Origin and Transformation of Political

Parties in America.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.


Green, Donald, Bradley Palmquist, and Eric Schickler.  2002.  Partisan Hearts and

Minds:  Political Parties and the Social Identities of Voters.  New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press.


Mayhew, David R.  2002.  Electoral Realignments: A Critique of the American Genre. 

New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press.


Streb, Matthew J.  2002.  The New Electoral Politics of Race.  Tuscaloosa:  University of

Alabama Press.


Wattenberg, Martin P.  1998.  The Decline of American Political Parties, 1952-1996. 

Cambridge, MA:  Harvard University Press.


These books are available at the NIU bookstore.  Students are strongly encouraged to visit websites such as www.campusi.com to find much cheaper, used versions of these books.  The remainder of the readings will be placed on electronic reserve, are available through J-stor or online, or can be copied from journals in the library.  When on campus, you can access articles by going to http://www.ulib.niu.edu/information/journals.cfm.


Grading Scale:

93-100%          A         90-92.9%         A-        87.5-89.9%      B+      

83-87.4%         B         80-82.9%         B-        77.5-79.9%      C+      

73-77.4%         C         70-72.9%         C-        60-69.9%         D        

Less than 60%      F


Course Outline and Readings:


NOTE: Readings should be completed for the day in which they are assigned.  It will probably be helpful to read the articles in the order in which they are listed.  (E) means the reading is available on electronic reserve. 


Jan 17             Introduction to the Course


The Role and Structure of Political Parties in the United States


Jan 24             What are parties and why are they important? 


Aldrich, chapters 1-5, 9

Herrnson, Paul S.  1992.  “Why the United States Does Not Have Responsible Parties.”  Perspectives on Political Science 21: 91-98.

White, John Kenneth.  1992.  “Responsible Party Government in America.”  Perspectives on Political Science 21: 80-90.


(For the Herrnson, and White readings, go to http://www.apsanet.org/~pop/APSA_Report.htm.  They are available at the bottom of the page.)


Jan 31             The Party Organization and Party Activists


Gibson, James L., Cornelius P. Cotter, John F. Bibby, and Robert J. Huckshorn.  1985.  “Whiter Local Parties?”  American Journal of Political Science 29: 139-160.

Herrnson, Paul S.  1986.  “Do Parties Make a Difference?  The Role of Party Organizations in Congressional Elections.”  Journal of Politics 48: 589-615. 

Streb, Matthew J.  2007.  “Partisan Involvement in Partisan and Nonpartisan Trial Court

Elections.”  In Running for Judge: The Rising Political, Financial, and Legal States of Judicial Elections, Matthew J. Streb (ed).  New York: New York University Press.

Frendreis, John P., James L. Gibson, and Laura L. Vertz.  1990.  “The Electoral

Relevance of Local Party Organizations.”  American Political Science Review 84: 225-235.   

Coleman, John J.  1996.  “Party Organizational Strength and Public Support for Parties.”  American Journal of Political Science 40: 805-824.

Weilhouwer, Peter W., and Brad Lockerbie.  1994. “Party Contacting and Political

Participation, 1952-1990.”  American Political Science Review 38: 211-229.

Gershtenson, Joseph.  2003.  “Mobilization Strategies of the Democrats and Republicans,

1956-2000.”  Political Research Quarterly 56: 293-308. 

Hill, Kim Quaile, and Jan E. Leighley.  1993.  “Party Ideology, Organization, and

Competitiveness as Mobilizing Forces in Gubernatorial Elections.”  American

Journal of Political Science 37: 1158-1178.

Aldrich, chapter 8 (skim). 



The Party-in-the-Electorate


Feb 7               The Theoretical Foundations of Party Identification


Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes.  1960.  The American Voter.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press.  Chapters 2 (skim), 6, 7. (E)

Green, Palmquist, and Schickler, Chapters 1-2.

Fiorina, Morris P.  1981.  Retrospective Voting in American National Elections.  New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.  Chapter 5. (E)

Page, Benjamin I., and Calvin C. Jones.  1979.  “Reciprocal Effects of Policy Preferences, Party Loyalties, and the Vote.”  American Political Science Review 73: 1071-1089. 

Goren, Paul. 2005.  “Party Identification and Core Political Values.”  American Journal of Political Science 49: 881-896.

Carsey, Thomas M., and Geoffrey C. Layman.  2006.  “Changing Sides or Changing Minds? Party Identification and Policy Preferences.”  American Journal of Political Science 50: 464-477.

Aldrich, chapter 6



Feb 14             Partisanship in the Aggregate


MacKuen, Michael B., Robert S. Erikson, and James A. Stimson.  1989.  “Macropartisanship.”  American Political Science Review 83: 1125-42.

Abramson, Paul R., and Charles W. Ostrom.  1991.  “Macropartisanship: Am Empirical Reassessment.”  American Political Science Review 85: 181-192.

MacKuen, Michael B., Robert S. Erikson, and James A. Stimson.  1992.  “Question Wording and Macropartisanship.”  American Political Science Review 86: 475-81.

Abramson, Paul R., and Charles W. Ostrom.  1992.  “Question Wording and Macropartisanship Response.”  American Political Science Review 86: 481-86.

Bartle, John.  2003.  “Measuring Party Identification: An Exploratory Study with Focus Groups.”  Electoral Studies 22: 217-237. 

Green, Palmquist, and Schickler, Chapter 4

Kaufmann, Karen, and John Petrocik.  1999.  “The Changing Politics of Men: Understanding the Sources of the Gender Gap.”  American Journal of Political Science 43:864-87.


Feb 21             Realignment


Key, V.O., Jr.  1955.  “A Theory of Critical Elections.”  Journal of Politics 17: 3-18.

Key, V.O., Jr.  1959.  “Secular Realignment and the Party System.”  Journal of Politics 21: 198-210. 

Mayhew, all

Nardulli, Peter F.  1995.  “The Concept of Critical Realignment, Electoral Behavior, and Political Change.”  American Political Science Review 89: 10-22.


Feb 28             Realignment, cont.


Carmines, Edward G., and James A. Stimson.  1981.  “Issue Evolution, Population, Replacement, and Normal Partisan Change.”  American Political Science Review 75: 107-118.

Abramowitz, Alan.  1994.   “Issue Evolution Revisited:  Racial Attitudes and Partisanship in the U.S. Electorate.”  American Journal of Political Science 38: 1-24.

Bullock, Charles S. III, Donna R. Hoffman, and Ronald Keith Gaddie.  2005.  “The Consolidation of the White Southern Congressional Vote.”  Political Research Quarterly 58: 231-243. 

Valentino, Nicholas A., and David O. Sears.  2005.  “Old Times There Are Not Forgotten: Race and Partisan Realignment in the Contemporary South.”  American Journal of Political Science 49: 672-688.

Abramowitz, Alan  and Kyle L. Saunders.  1998.  “Ideological Realignment in the U.S. Electorate.”  Journal of Politics 60: 634-652.

Miller, Warren E., and J. Merrill Shanks.  1996.  The New American Voter (Cambridge: Harvard University Press).  Chapter 7.(E)

Green, Palmquist, and Schickler, Chapter 6. 



Mar 7              Dealignment and the Decline of the Party-in-the-Electorate


Pomper, Gerald M.  1977.  “The Decline of Party in American Elections.”  Political

Science Quarterly 92: 21-41.

Wattenberg, all


Mar 13            Spring Break


Mar 20            The Continuing Importance of Party Identification


Keith, Bruce., David B. Magleby, Candice J. Nelson, Elizabeth Orr, Mark C. Westlye,

and Raymond E. Wolfinger.  1992.  The Myth of the Independent Voter.  Berkeley:  University of California Press, Chapter 5. (E) 

Bartels, Larry M.  2000.  “Partisanship and Voting Behavior, 1952-1996.”  American

Journal of Political Science 44: 35-50.

Hetherington, Marc. J.  2001.  “Resurgent Mass Partisanship: The Role of Elite Polarization.”  American Political Science Review 95: 619-631.

Brewer, Mark D.  2005.  “The Rise of Partisanship and the Expansion of Partisan

Conflict within the American Electorate.”  Political Research Quarterly 58: 219-


Cowden, Jonathan A., and Rose M. McDermott.  2000.  “Short-Term Forces and

Partisanship.”  Political Behavior 22: 197-222.

Green, Palmquist, and Schickler.  Chapters 3, 5, 8.


Mar 27            Political Parties as Heuristics and Schemas 


Mondak, Jeffrey J.  1993.  “Public Opinion and Heuristic Processing of Source Cues.” 

Political Behavior 15: 167-192. (NOTE:  I’ve assigned this article because it is

a nice overview of heuristics, although it is not related directly to party


Rahn, Wendy.  1993.  “The Role of Partisan Stereotypes in Information Processing about

Candidates.”  American Journal of Political Science 37:472-496.

Schaffner, Brian F., Matthew J. Streb, and Gerald C. Wright.  2001.  “Teams Without

Uniforms: The Nonpartisan Ballot in State and Local Elections.”  Political

Research Quarterly 54:7-30.

Schaffner, Brian F. and Matthew J. Streb. 2002.  “The Partisan Heuristic in Low

Information Elections.”  Public Opinion Quarterly 66: 559-81.

Lau, Richard. R and David P. Redlawsk.  2001.  “Advantages and Disadvantages of

Cognitive Heuristics in Political Decision-Making.”  American Journal of Political Science 45: 951-71.

Petrocik, John R.  1996.  “Issue Ownership in Presidential Elections, with a 1980 Case

Study.”  American Journal of Political Science 40: 825-50.

Hayes, Danny.  2005.  “Candidate Qualities through a Partisan Lens: A Theory of Trait

Ownership.”  American Journal of Political Science 49: 908-923.


Apr 3              No class.  MPSA Conference.


Apr 10                        Partisanship and Race


Streb, all (except Chapter 9)

Giles, Michael W., and Kaenan Hertz.  1994.  “Racial Threat and Party Identification.”

American Political Science Review 88:317-26.




Apr 17                        The Party-in-Government and Democratic Governance


Krehbiel, Keith.  1993.  “Where’s the Party?” British Journal of Political Science 23:


Cox, Gary W., and Keith T. Poole.  2002.  “On Measuring Partisanship in Roll-Call

Voting: The U.S. House of Representatives, 1877-1999.”  American Journal of

Political Science 46: 477-489.

Lebo, Matthew J., Adam J. McGlynn, and Gregory Koger.  2007.  “Strategic Party

Government: Party Influence in Congress, 1789-2000.”  American Journal of Political Science 51: 464-481.

Wright, Gerald C., and Brian F. Schaffner.  2002.  “The Influence of Parties: Evidence

from the State Legislatures.”  American Political Science Review 96: 367-380.

Stimson, James A., Michael B. MacKuen, and Robert S. Erikson.  1995.  “Dynamic

Representation.”  American Political Science Review 89: 543-565.

Erikson, Robert S., Gerald C. Wright, Jr., and John P. McIver.  1989.  “Political Parties,

Public Opinion, and State Policy in the United States.”  American Political

Science Review 83: 729-750.

Aldrich, John H., and James S. Coleman Battista.  2002.  “Conditional Party Government

in the States.”  American Journal of Political Science 46: 164-172.

Lindaman, Kara, and Donald P. Haider-Markel.  2002.  “Issue Evolution, Political

Parties, and the Culture Wars.”  Political Research Quarterly 55: 91-111.

Aldrich, Chapter 7. 


Apr 24                        Divided Government


Fiorina, Morris P.  1996.  Divided Government, 2nd ed.  Needham Heights, MA: Allyn &

Bacon, Chapter 5. (E)

Fiorina, Morris P.  1994.  “Divided Government in the American States: A Byproduct of

Legislative Professionalism.”  American Political Science Review 88: 304-316.

Saunders, Kyle L., Alan I. Abramowitz, and Jonathan Williamson.  2005.  “A New Kind

of Balancing Act: Electoral Certainty and Ticket-Splitting in the 1996 and 2000

Elections.”  Political Research Quarterly 58: 69-78.

Sinclair, Barbara.  1993.  “House Majority Party Leadership in an Era of Divided

Control.”  In Congress Reconsidered, 5th ed.  Lawrence C. Dodd and Bruce I. Oppenheimer (eds.).  Washington, DC: CQ Press. (E)

Jones, David, and Monika McDermott.  2004.  “The Responsible Party Government

Model in House and Senate Elections.”  American Journal of Political Science

48: 1-12.


May 1             Research Presentations


May 8             Final Exam