Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-dknvm Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-27T17:32:47.130Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Activists and Conflict Extension in American Party Politics

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 May 2010

University of Notre Dame
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
University of Akron
Arizona State University
University of Mary Washington
Geoffrey C. Layman is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Notre Dame, 217 O'Shaughnessy Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556 (
Thomas M. Carsey is Pearsall Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599 (
John C. Green is Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of Akron, 223B Olin Hall, Akron, OH 44325 (
Richard Herrera is Associate Professor, School of Politics and Global Studies, Arizona State University, Coor Hall, 6th Floor, Tempe, AZ 85287 (
Rosalyn Cooperman is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science and International Affairs, University of Mary Washington, 1301 College Avenue, Fredericksburg, VA 22401 (


Party activists have played a leading role in “conflict extension”—the polarization of the parties along multiple issue dimensions—in contemporary American politics. We argue that open nomination systems and the ambitious politicians competing within those systems encourage activists with extreme views on a variety of issue dimensions to become involved in party politics, thus motivating candidates to take noncentrist positions on a range of issues. Once that happens, continuing activists with strong partisan commitments bring their views into line with the new candidate agendas, thus extending the domain of interparty conflict. Using cross-sectional and panel surveys of national convention delegates, we find clear evidence for conflict extension among party activists, evidence tentatively suggesting a leading role for activists in partisan conflict extension more generally, and strong support for our argument about change among continuing activists. Issue conversion among activists has contributed substantially to conflict extension and party commitment has played a key role in motivating that conversion.

Research Article
Copyright © American Political Science Association 2010

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Abramowitz, Alan I., McGlennon, John J., and Rapoport, Ronald B.. 1983. “The Party Isn't Over: Incentives for Activism in the 1980 Presidential Nominating Campaign.” Journal of Politics 45: 1006–15.Google Scholar
Abramowitz, Alan I., McGlennon, John, Rapoport, Ronald B., and Stone, Walter J.. 1996. Activists in the United States Presidential Nomination Process, 1980–1996 [computer file]. 2nd ICPSR version. Williamsburg, VA: Alan I. Abramowitz et al. [producers], 1996. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor], 2001.Google Scholar
Abramowitz, Alan I., and Saunders, Kyle L.. 1998. “Ideological Realignment in the U.S. Electorate.” Journal of Politics 60: 634–52.Google Scholar
Abramowitz, Alan I., and Saunders, Kyle L.. 2008. “Is Polarization a Myth?Journal of Politics 70: 542–55.Google Scholar
Aldrich, John H. 1980. Before the Convention. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Aldrich, John H. 1983a. “A Downsian Spatial Model with Party Activism.” American Political Science Review 77: 974–90.Google Scholar
Aldrich, John H. 1983b. “A Spatial Model with Party Activists: Implications for Electoral Dynamics.” Public Choice 41: 63100.Google Scholar
Aldrich, John H. 1995. Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Political Parties in America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Aldrich, John H., and Rohde, David W.. 2001. “The Logic of Conditional Party Government: Revisiting the Electoral Connection. In Congress Reconsidered. 7th ed., eds. Dodd, Lawrence C. and Oppenheimer, Bruce I.. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 269–92.Google Scholar
Andersen, T. W. 1957. “Maximum Likelihood Estimates for a Multivariate Normal Distribution When Some Observations Are Missing.” Journal of the American Statistical Association 52 (278): 200203.Google Scholar
Bentler, Peter M., and Bonett, Douglas G.. 1980. “Significance Tests and Goodness of Fit in the Analysis of Covariance Structures.” Psychological Bulletin 88: 588606.Google Scholar
Black, Earl, and Black, Merle. 1987. Politics and Society in the South. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Black, Earl, and Black, Merle. 2007. Divided America. New York: Simon and Schuster.Google Scholar
Bollen, Kenneth A. 1986. “Sample Size and Bentler and Bonett's Nonnormed Fit Index.” Psychometrika 51: 375–77.Google Scholar
Bollen, Kenneth A. 1989. “A New Incremental Fit Index for General Structural Equation Models.” Sociological Methods and Research 17: 303–16.Google Scholar
Brewer, Mark D. 2005. “The Rise of Partisanship and the Expansion of Partisan Conflict within the American Electorate.” Political Research Quarterly 58: 219–30.Google Scholar
Brewer, Mark D., and Stonecash, Jeffrey M.. 2006. Split: Class and Cultural Divides in American Politics. Washington, DC: CQ Press.Google Scholar
Brownstein, Ronald. 2007. The Second Civil War. New York: Penguin Press.Google Scholar
Campbell, Angus, Converse, Philip E., Miller, Warren E., and Stokes, Donald E.. 1960. The American Voter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Carmines, Edward G. 1991. “The Logic of Party Alignments.”Journal of Theoretical Politics 3: 6585.Google Scholar
Carmines, Edward G., and Stimson, James A.. 1989. Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
Carsey, Thomas M., and Layman, Geoffrey C.. 2006. “Changing Sides or Changing Minds? Party Identification and Policy Preferences in the American Electorate.” American Journal of Political Science 50: 464–77.Google Scholar
Carson, Jamie L., Crespin, Michael H., Finocchiaro, Charles J., and Rohde, David W.. 2007. “Redistricting and Party Polarization in the U.S. House of Representatives.” American Politics Research 35 (6): 878904.Google Scholar
Cohen, Marty, Karol, David, Noel, Hans, and Zaller, John. 2008. The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations before and after Reform. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Converse, Philip E. 1964. “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics.” In Ideology and Discontent, ed. Apter, David E.. New York: Free Press, 206–61.Google Scholar
Conway, M. Margaret, and Feigert, Frank B..1968. “Motivations, Incentive Systems, and the Political Party Organization.” American Political Science Review 62: 1159–73.Google Scholar
Cox, Gary W., and McCubbins, Matthew Daniel. 1993. Legislative Leviathan: Party Government in the House. Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
Cox, Gary W., and McCubbins, Matthew Daniel. 2005. Setting the Agenda: Responsible Party Government in the U.S. House of Representatives. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University PressGoogle Scholar
Davis, Otto A., Hinich, Melvin, and Ordeshook, Peter C.. 1970. “An Expository Development of a Mathematical Model of the Electoral Process.”American Political Science Review 64: 426–48.Google Scholar
De Boef, Suzanna L., and Keele, Luke. 2008. “Taking Time Seriously.” American Journal of Political Science 52 (1): 184200.Google Scholar
Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
Evans, Rowland, and Novak, Robert. 1966. Lyndon B. Johnson: The Exercise of Power. New York: New American Library.Google Scholar
Fiorina, Morris P., with Abrams, Samuel J. and Pope, Jeremy C.. 2005. Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America. New York: Pearson Longman.Google Scholar
Richard, Fleisher, and Bond, Jon R.. 2004. “The Shrinking Middle in the U.S. Congress.” British Journal of Political Science 34: 429–51.Google Scholar
Freeman, Jo. 1986. “The Political Culture of the Democratic and Republican Parties.” Political Science Quarterly, 101 (3): 327–56.Google Scholar
Gerring, John. 1998. Party Ideologies in America, 1828–1996. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Gimpel, James G. and Schuknecht, Jason E.. 2001. “Interstate Migration and Electoral Politics.” Journal of Politics 63: 207231.Google Scholar
Granger, Clive W. J. 1969. “Investigating Causal Relation by Econometric and Cross-sectional Method.” Econometrica 37: 424–38.Google Scholar
Hacker, Jacob S., and Pierson, Paul. 2005. Off Center: The Republican Revolution and the Erosion of American Democracy. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
Herrera, Richard. 1992. “The Understanding of Ideological Labels by Political Elites: A Research Note.” Western Political Quarterly 45: 1021–35.Google Scholar
Jacobson, Gary C. 2000. “Party Polarization in National Politics: The Electoral Connection.” In Polarized Politics: Congress and the President in a Partisan Era, eds. Bond, Jon R. and Fleisher, Richard Washington, DC: CQ Press, 930.Google Scholar
Karol, David. 2009. Party Position Change in American Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
Kirkpatrick, Jeane J. 1976. The New Presidential Elite. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
Kline, Rex B. 1998. Principles and Practice of Structural Equation Modeling. New York: Guilford.Google Scholar
Krosnick, Jon A. 1990. “Government Policy and Citizen Passion: A Study of Issue Publics in Contemporary America.” Political Behavior 12 (1): 5992.Google Scholar
Krugman, Paul. 2002. “America the Polarized.” New York Times, Jan. 4: A21.Google Scholar
Layman, Geoffrey C. 2001. The Great Divide: Religious and Cultural Conflict in American Party Politics. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
Layman, Geoffrey C., and Carsey, Thomas M.. 2002a. “Party Polarization and ‘Conflict Extension’ in the American Electorate.” American Journal of Political Science 46: 786802.Google Scholar
Layman, Geoffrey C., and Carsey, Thomas M.. 2002b. “Party Polarization and Party Structuring of Policy Attitudes: A Comparison of Three NES Panel Studies.” Political Behavior 24: 199236.Google Scholar
Layman, Geoffrey C., Carsey, Thomas M., and Horowitz, Juliana Menasce. 2006. “Party Polarization in American Politics: Characteristics, Causes, and Consequences.” Annual Review of Political Science 9: 83110.Google Scholar
Lee, Frances E. 2009.Beyond Ideology: Politics, Principles, and Partisanship in the U.S. Senate. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Masket, Seth. 2007. “It Takes An Outsider: Extra-legislative Organization And Partisanship in the California Assembly, 1849–2006.” American Journal of Political Science 51 (3): 482–97.Google Scholar
Mayhew, David. 2002. Electoral Realignments: A Critique of an American Genre. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
McCann, James A. 1995. “Nomination Politics and Ideological Polarization: Assessing the Attitudinal Effects of Campaign Involvement.” Journal of Politics 57: 101–20.Google Scholar
McCarty, Nolan, Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2006. Polarized America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.Google Scholar
McClosky, Herbert, Hoffman, Paul, and O'Hara, Rosemary, 1960. “Issue Conflict and Consensus among Party Leaders and Followers.” American Political Science Review 54: 406–72.Google Scholar
Miller, Gary, and Schofield, Norman. 2003. “Activists and Partisan Realignment in the United States.” American Political Science Review 97: 245–60.Google Scholar
Miller, Gary, and Schofield, Norman. 2008. “The Transformation of the Republican and Democratic Party Coalitions in the U.S.” Perspectives on Politics 6: 433–50.Google Scholar
Miller, Warren E., and Jennings, M. Kent. 1986. Parties in Transition: A Longitudinal Study of Party Elites and Party Supporters. New York: Sage.Google Scholar
Noel, Hans. 2006. “The Coalition Merchants: How Ideologues Shape American Politics.” Ph.D. diss. University of California at Los Angeles.Google Scholar
Oldfield, Duane. 1996. The Right and the Righteous. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.Google Scholar
Polsby, Nelson W. 1983. Consequences of Party Reform. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Polsby, Nelson W. 2005. How Congress Evolves. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Poole, Keith T., and Rosenthal, Howard. 2006. Ideology and Congress: 2nd, rev. ed. of Congress: A Political–Economic History of Roll Call Voting. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.Google Scholar
Rapoport, Ronald B., and Stone, Walter J.. 1994. “A Model for Disaggregating Political Change.” Political Behavior 16: 505–32.Google Scholar
Reichley, A. James. 1987. “The Evangelical and Fundamentalist Revolt.” In Piety and Politics: Evangelicals and Fundamentalists Confront the World, eds. Neuhaus, Richard John and Cromrartie, Michael. Washington, DC: Ethics and Public Policy Center.Google Scholar
Riker, William H. 1982. Liberalism against Populism: A Confrontation between the Theory of Democracy and the Theory of Social Choice. San Francisco: Freeman.Google Scholar
Rohde, David W. 1991. Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Saunders, Kyle L., and Abramowitz, Alan I.. 2004. “Ideological Realignment and Active Partisans in the American Electorate.” American Politics Research 32: 285309.Google Scholar
Schattschneider, E. E. 1960. The Semisovereign People: A Realist's View of Democracy in America. Hinsdale, IL: Dryden Press.Google Scholar
Schlesinger, Joseph A. 1991. Political Parties and the Winning of Office. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan Press.Google Scholar
Schofield, Norman, and Miller, Gary. 2007. “Elections and Activist Coalitions in the United States.” American Journal of Political Science 51: 518–31.Google Scholar
Schumpeter, Joseph A. 1942. Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy. New York: Harper.Google Scholar
Sinclair, Barbara. 2006. Party Wars: Polarization and the Politics of National Policy Making. Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press.Google Scholar
Stone, Walter J. 1991. “On Party Switching among Presidential Activists: What Do We Know?American Journal of Political Science 35: 598607.Google Scholar
Stone, Walter J., and Abramowitz, Alan I.. 1983. “Winning May Not Be Everything, But It's More Than We Thought.” American Political Science Review 77: 945–56.Google Scholar
Stonecash, Jeffrey M., Brewer, Mark D., and Mariani, Mack D.. 2003. Diverging Parties: Social Change, Realignment, and Party Polarization. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
Sundquist, James L. 1983. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
Theriault, Sean M. 2008. Party Polarization in Congress. New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
White, Theodore H. 1973. The Making of the President, 1972. New York: Bantam.Google Scholar
Wilcox, Clyde, and Larson, Carin. 2006. Onward Christian Soldiers? The Religious Right in American Politics. 3rd ed. Boulder, CO: Westview.Google Scholar
Wildavsky, Aaron. 1965. “The Goldwater Phenomenon: Purists, Politicians, and the Two-party System.” Review of Politics 27: 393–99.Google Scholar
Wilson, James Q. 1962. The Amateur Democrat. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Layman et al. supplementary material


Download Layman et al. supplementary material(File)
File 318 KB