LAC Main Seminar Series: Creating Partisans: The Organizational Roots of New Parties in Latin America
Conveners: David Doyle and Javier Pérez Sandoval, University of Oxford
Speaker: Mathias Poertner, London School of Economics and Political Science
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Mathias Poertner is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the London School of Economics and Political Science. His research lies at the intersection of political behavior, democratic representation, political parties and movements, and political methodology, with a regional focus on Latin America. His work focuses on how political participation and representation are shaped by social identities, such as partisanship, ethnicity, and gender. He is currently finishing a book, Creating Partisans: The Organizational Roots of New Parties in Latin America, which explores why some political parties in new democracies are successful in creating mass partisanship and securing stable electoral support, while most fail to take root in society and disappear again quickly. Drawing on 24 months of fieldwork in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico, this project combines insights from a series of experiments with over 230 in-depth interviews with representatives of parties and organizations, analyses of original surveys, and ethnographic work within local civil society organizations. His prior research on political parties, the role of civil society organizations in political representation, the inclusion of underrepresented groups, and discrimination towards immigrants has been published in leading journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, American Journal of Political Science, American Political Science Review, World Development, Political Analysis, and Comparative Political Studies.
Abstract: Why are some new political parties successful at creating mass partisanship and engendering stable electoral support, while most fail to take root in society and disappear quickly? Creating Partisans: The Organizational Roots of New Parties in Latin America investigates this fundamental question by exploring the different paths that new parties take to secure stable electoral support and create mass partisanship in the context of the recent wave of party formation in Latin America. It explains both how different mobilization strategies sway voters to support new parties and how new parties choose their mobilization strategies in the first place. While prior studies have predominantly focused on various types of direct appeals that parties make to voters, such as issue-based or personalistic appeals, the book demonstrates that organizationally mediated appeals—those that engage voters through locally-based civil society organizations, which serve as highly relevant reference groups to their members—can secure electoral support more effectively and durably. Drawing on social identity and self-categorization theory, the project shows how new types of organizations play a critical mediating role in creating partisan attachments in young democracies by socializing organization members and individuals in their wider social network into identifying with the party. Building on 24 months of fieldwork in Bolivia, Ecuador, and Mexico, the project combines insights from a series of experiments and a natural experiment with over 230 in-depth interviews with representatives of parties and organizations, analyses of original surveys, election returns, archival materials, and ethnographic work in local organizations.
Although civil society organizations’ mediating role has been largely overlooked with the decline of labor unions and the rise of mass media, the books shows how more recent types of organizations—such as indigenous organizations, neighborhood associations, and informal sector unions—play immensely important mediating roles in democratic societies today by politicizing identities and mobilizing them for new parties. Such organizations, formed around fundamental political group identities or interests, play crucial roles in the everyday lives of large segments of the population in many young democracies. In a seemingly ever more complex world in which citizens are flooded with information through mass media, these types of local organizations represent a crucial source of guidance for their members and others in their social networks. While prior research has examined the formation of these organizations and their role in politicizing class and ethnic identities, little attention has been paid to the various ways in which different types of party–organization linkages might influence vote choice and the emergence of partisanship.