This article examines the logic underlying standard formulations of the interparty competition hypothesis in the comparative state policy literature, suggests a reformulation which provides some new insights into the conditions under which we might expect state policies to change as a result of party characteristics, and undertakes an initial test of the reformulation.
I develop two propositions. The first is that party systems which divide the electorate along economic class lines will generate more generous welfare policies than party systems which do not so organize the electorate. The second is that within states with class-based electoral systems, change in welfare policy will be positively related to the degree to which the party or faction with lower- and working-class support gains control of government.
I analyze welfare policies of selected American states for the period 1938 to 1970. My analysis suggests that (1) the class basis of electoral politics does influence state welfare policies and (2) parties and factions which differ in their constituency bases produce different types of policies when they are in control of government.