Party decline - or renewal +?

Party decline - or renewal +?


  • The two main parties are distinct and polarisation has increased in recent years
  • Most voters identify with one of the two main parties (e.g.: 2004 - 2010 midterms)
  • trend of independent voting has not increased since the 1970s. it reached 30% but has not changed since! e.g.: 2004 - third parties have little influence (Nader only gets 0.3% of popular vote) (2008 -all third parties get less than 1.5% of the popular vote)
  • Party organisation has strengthened since the 1990s e.g.: highly organised national/local campaigns in 2008 and 2010. This is particularly true for Democrats in 2004 who raised more than the Republicans in 2006
  • candidates in presidential/congressional elections cannot hope the win without party support
  • Very few independents in Congress. 110th congress: 2 in senate, none in house. This continued until the 113th.


  • Pressure groups have stronger support than parties
  • Weakening party loyalty: 30% of the electorate identify as independent. Many Republicans voted Obama in 2008 and Clinton in 2016.
  • Dissatisfaction with the two major parties has lead to an increase in third party support in 2012
  • Parties do not vote together
  • Party leadership has lost its influence in elections because of the the increased use of primaries and the reduced use of caucuses
  • The electorate gets information from media, not parties because of technological advancements
  • Alternative source of finance provided by PACs, super PACs and 527s . This has only strengthened since United States v FEC (2010)
  • Poor turnout
  • Separation of powers causes disunity within the party (e.g.: a presidential and congressional party can form / state v local v national parties)
  • Lack of party loyalty within Congress - Gingrich forced to resign in 1998. Republicans supporting Clinton in impeachment trial. Division in the Senate over immigration & gun control


Parties are still of massive importance in the United States. While third parties have managed to make their way into state governments, they have failed to make the same traction in federal government. Nearly all influential politicians are associated with one of the two parties and it is extremely rare that one can be successful without one.


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