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Parties as Networks

- March 3, 2009

Gregory Koger, Seth Masket, and Hans Noel have an “interesting new paper”:http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/pn_wp/4/ analyzing the Democratic and Republican parties as networks. They operationalize this by looking at the ways in which different organizations with political affiliations or inclinations swap mailing lists among each other. In order to discover who swaps mailing lists with who, they made $25 donations to a variety of candidates and organizations under unique names at a common PO box, and then looked at who sent them fundraising solicitations. They then further donations to everyone who responded to the subsequent rounds. This allows them to map of how names get passed around among political organizations, magazines, candidates and so on.

Unsurprisingly, they find that there are two distinct clusters (Republican organizations and candidates and magazines swap mailing lists with each other, Democratic organizations and candidates and magazines likewise, but never the twain shall meet); this does show that it is useful to see parties as relatively coherent networks for at least one significant set of relationships. Interestingly, the Republican network appears to be sparser and less well connected than its Democratic equivalent, and the RNC and NRCC are less well connected to other groups and magazines than the DNC and the DNCC are (this is the opposite of what I would have expected). There are few links between these networks, and most involve media publications that might want to market to both audiences. Also interesting (since the data were gathered in 2004) is that Howard Dean’s organization is almost entirely disconnected from the larger Democratic network. As the authors say:

bq. In early 2004, Dean was a party insurgent and outsider. While he shared many ideological positions with the liberal network, he did not coordinate with it. Dean’s list would have been valuable to liberal groups and other presidential candidates. But while Dean was willing to share the list with some outside businesses, he did not share names with actors in the Democratic network. This accurately places Dean outside the party network in early 2004, and captures political behaviour at odds with a purely economic rationale for list sharing. The party network in early 2004 included non-formal actors such as Americans for Democratic Action and People for the American Way, but the network did not include Dean.