THE DECLINE OF PARTISANSHIP IN THE UNITED STATES: A Reexamination of the Neutrality Hypothesis

Craig, Stephen C.
March 1985
Political Behavior;1985, Vol. 7 Issue 1, p57
Academic Journal
The "neutrality hypothesis" suggests that the erosion of partisan loyalties in the United States does not reflect a growing sense of alienation from the party system, or a loss of public confidence in political parties generally. Instead, we are told that many independents simply regard the parties as irrelevant in the search for solutions to our most important national problems. The following report challenges the assumption that such beliefs necessarily lead citizens to express neutral feelings toward either the Democrats or the Republicans, or toward both. Data from the CPS election studies show, first, that aggregate levels of neutrality are about the same today as they were 20 years ago and, second, that there is a relationship between nonpartisanship and negative views concerning the parties' capacity to serve as representative (or linkage) institutions in democratic politics. It is our contention that, to some degree, this relationship can help us to account for the weakening of partisan attachments since 1964. If we are correct, a restoration of the parties' mass base will be even more difficult to achieve than the neutrality hypothesis implies.


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