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Strongholds and Battlegrounds: Measuring Party Support Stability in Canada

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  23 September 2013

Marc André Bodet*
Université Laval
Marc André Bodet, Département de science politique, Université Laval, Pavillon Charles-De-Koninck, Québec QC, G1V 0A6,


Abstract. Despite the nationalization of politics in established democracies, the study of local dynamics remains fundamental to our understanding of electoral politics, especially in plurality contests. In plurality systems, local competition indeed has important consequences for the distribution of seats in parliaments and cabinets. While a plethora of measures exists to assess electoral competitiveness, none adequately captures the dynamic nature of party support at the local level. Making use of the Canadian case as an illustration, we propose a new classification of electoral districts that aims at filling this gap. Districts are divided into two categories, strongholds and battlegrounds, depending on the successive performances of parties. We argue that such a classification should be utilized in addition to static measures of competitiveness, notably in the study of political participation.

Résumé. Malgré la nationalisation de la politique au sein des démocraties établies, l'étude des dynamiques locales demeure fondamentale pour bien comprendre la politique électorale, particulièrement dans les systèmes pluralitaires où la compétition locale a des conséquences importantes sur la distribution des sièges au parlement et au cabinet. Bien qu'il existe une panoplie de mesures de compétition électorale, aucune ne capture adéquatement la nature dynamique de l'appui aux partis à l'échelle locale. À l'aide du cas canadien, nous proposons une nouvelle classification des districts électoraux qui corrige cette lacune. Les districts sont divisés en deux catégories – bastions et champs de bataille – en fonction des performances successives des partis en présence. Nous suggérons que cette classification soit utilisée en plus d'autres mesures statiques, notamment dans l'étude de la participation électorale.

Research Article
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association 2013 

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