Share this
PREVIOUS ARTICLE ALL CONTENTS Next ARTICLE

Are Politics Local? The Two Dimensions of Party Nationalization around the World, Scott Morgenstern

Reviewed by Arjan H. Schakel

BUY

The statement that geography matters for politics probably will not be contested by many political scientists. Therefore, it is quite surprising that few studies have systematically explored how the territorial distribution of preferences affects political processes and policy outcomes. This book by Scott Morgenstern is an important landmark study that puts geography high on the research agenda of comparative political science. Three features make this book worthwhile reading for scholars working on the nationalization of elections and parties.

First, Morgenstern identifies two dimensions of party nationalization and shows that they are theoretically and empirically unrelated. Static nationalization refers to the extent to which party vote shares are homogeneously distributed across districts at a particular point in time. Dynamic nationalization taps into the consistency in the change of a party’s vote shares across time. The combination of these two dimensions leads to a useful fourfold categorization of nationalized, unstable, unbalanced, and locally focused parties. As Morgenstern shows in Chapters 7, 8, and 9, each type of party has different implications for electoral accountability and bill co-sponsorship among legislators.

Second, the focus of the book is on parties and not party systems. Most nationalization scholars explore the extent to which party systems are nationalized, and their indicators for nationalization produce scores that lump parties together into one value. A refreshing insight provided by Morgenstern is that party system scores obscure significant variation across parties within countries. Nationalized, unstable, unbalanced, and locally focused parties can co-exist within a single party system and a party can move between categories across time.

Third, Morgenstern explores when and how static and dynamic party nationalization affects policy outcomes and investigates what drives the two dimensions of party nationalization. The number of electoral districts is the primary causal driver for static nationalization (an increasing number of districts lowers static nationalization) whereas dynamic nationalization mainly depends on the executive system (parliamentarism increases dynamic nationalization whereas presidentialism has the opposite effect). Apart from having different causes, dynamic and static nationalization also have different impacts and this insight leads to innovative findings. For example, in Chapter 8, Morgenstern reveals that economic downturns drive voters’ views of the incumbent (retrospective voting) while local factors can influence their prospective vote choices. Therefore, scholars researching economic voting are well advised to include party nationalization into their models.

A missed opportunity of the book is the exclusion of subnational electoral data. On the basis of a discussion of Chilean municipal, legislative, and presidential elections, Morgenstern observes that “municipal elections can show strong signs that national politics are more important to voters than local issues or personalities” (p. 100). Despite this interesting finding, party nationalization in subnational elections is not further explored in the book.

Morgenstern’s study focuses on the Americas, which, given his expertise on Latin-American countries, is understandable. But it does raise the question of what explains dynamic and static party nationalization in European countries, most of which have parliamentary systems and many of which have proportional electoral systems with a relatively low number of districts.

The previous two comments reveal that the book Are Politics Local? constitutes a benchmark that will serve as a necessary starting point for scholars who set out to further explore party nationalization.

About PSQ's Editor

ROBERT Y. SHAPIRO

Full Access

Join the Academy of Political Science and automatically receive Political Science Quarterly.

CONFERENCES & EVENTS

WEBINAR
Policing: The Change America is Awaiting
July 23, 2020
7:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. EST

MORE ABOUT THIS EVENT VIEW ALL EVENTS

Editor’s spotlight

Race and Public Policy

Social Policy and the Welfare of Black Americans: From Rights to Resources
Charles V. Hamilton

Getting into the Black: Race, Wealth, and Public Policy
Dalton Conley

MORE ABOUT THIS TOPIC

Search the Archives

Publishing since 1886, PSQ is the most widely read and accessible scholarly journal with distinguished contributors such as: Lisa Anderson, Robert A. Dahl, Samuel P. Huntington, Robert Jervis, Joseph S. Nye, Jr., Theda Skocpol, Woodrow Wilson

view additional issues

Most read

Articles | Book reviews

Understanding the Bush Doctrine
Robert Jervis

The Study of Administration
Woodrow Wilson

Notes on Roosevelt's "Quarantine" Speech
Dorothy Borg

view all

New APS Book

Presidential Selection and Democracy   PRESIDENTIAL SELECTION AND DEMOCRACY

About US

Academy of Political Science

The Academy of Political Science, promotes objective, scholarly analyses of political, social, and economic issues. Through its conferences and publications APS provides analysis and insight into both domestic and foreign policy issues.

Political Science Quarterly

With neither an ideological nor a partisan bias, PSQ looks at facts and analyzes data objectively to help readers understand what is really going on in national and world affairs.

Stay Connected

newsstand locator
About APS