5

Has it ever been quantitatively proven that straight-party voting in a two-party federal republic (or similar system) inevitably leads to partisanship (i.e., the reluctance to compromise with one's political opponents)? My gut feeling is that the act of straight-party voting en masse would introduce some bias in the results.

What got me thinking about this question is a statement made by a friend of my mine who is also a political science professor at my university. When talking about voting practices, he made the comment that he always straight-party votes, because that (paraphrasing) "is the only way anything gets done". That struck me as odd, since personal experience has taught me that cooperation is the only real way to accomplish anything in a group.

  • 1
    The U.S. is not an example of a "two-party federal republic". The number of political parties is not fixed at two. There is no prohibition as to the number of political parties in the U.S. – guest271314 Sep 6 '18 at 17:22
  • 3
    @guest271314, what I'm referring to is a system similar to the one we have in the US. This is not my field, so I don't have the vocabulary ... sorry. – Joel DeWitt Sep 6 '18 at 17:50
  • 2
    @guest271314 no expert here either, but it seems to me that on the federal level there are effectively two parties. The other parties don't seem to have much influence. Then again, I'm no expert. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Sep 6 '18 at 18:17
  • 8
    The last time the US Congress had more than 10 members from third-parties was in the late 1930's, so it should be fine to use it as an example of a (de facto) two party system. I'm not sure if any country has a strict/official two-party system, but plenty are unofficial like the US. – Giter Sep 6 '18 at 18:34
  • 3
    I don't think straight party voting accomplishes anything other than bad things. It places party affiliation above character, honesty, and specific platform. This allows inferior or even corrupt candidates a chance to beat superior candidates. It worsens the cost-benefit function of getting informed on issues, thus encouraging low-information voting. It spares unfit parties from the impetus to adapt. It also waters down checks and balances. – John Sep 7 '18 at 15:54
1

When talking about voting practices, he made the comment that he always straight-party votes, because that (paraphrasing) "is the only way anything gets done". That struck me as odd, since personal experience has taught me that cooperation is the only real way to accomplish anything in a group.

Sure, but making a majority of the group cooperative is easier if they are one party. Parties are incented to work together within the party, but there is less of a desire to work with the other party.

The biggest cause of partisanship in the United States is not straight-party voting but the primary system.

In the general election of a two party system, both parties will tend to become more like the other. This is because if you assume that voters pick the candidate that is closest to them, there is no advantage to being away from the median policy.

In primaries, that reverses. Primaries are dominated by the people who really care, which tend to be the extremes (conservatives and liberals) rather than the moderates. Until a party has been out of power for a while, it's hard for moderate candidates to get through a primary. So primaries not infrequently create two extremist candidates. They may move toward the middle during the general election, but it can be hard to drop a policy that a candidate avidly supported during the primary.

Plurality or first-past-the-post voting causes partisanship in primaries. Even in areas where the moderates dominate, if there are two moderates and one more extreme candidate, the more extreme candidate can win with the largest minority (plurality).

Another issue is the way that people have been self-sorting politically. People who like Democratic policies are increasingly located in cities while Republicans are in rural areas. Some of that has been the policies shifting, but some has been people moving. This creates more and more situations where the primary is the important election. But often the other party can't participate in the primary.

Eliminating primaries and moving towards a ranked system might help with this. Because it would empower minority viewpoints like moderation. But it would also reduce the power of the existing extremists. Which makes it hard to get passed, as the people who would most support it are those who end up unrepresented in the current system.

  • What papers would you suggest for further reading? – Joel DeWitt Sep 20 '18 at 16:34
  • I mostly agree, but think a few things are mixed up. 1) Primaries are a byproduct of the voting system. Specifically, they reduce the impact of the spoiler effect present in FPTP. Duverger's Law predicts the partisanship, which would likely still exist even if primaries were removed. 2) If you are advocating voting reform, please consider cardinal systems such as Approval, Score, or STAR (Score-Runoff), which experimentally perform much better than ranking systems like IRV. – eclipz905 Oct 4 '18 at 13:37

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .