Nationalization and party system dynamics: how the nationalization of party support and party systems determines the number of parties
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] My dissertation focuses on explaining the number of parties competing in elections within a cross-national perspective. I argue that institutional theories purporting to explain the number of parties are incapable of explaining why the number of parties exceeds two-party expectations in plurality elections. Instead, I argue that an explanation rooted in the representation of social groups explains why the number of parties fluctuates from election to election, and why the number of parties often exceeds the expectations of institutional theories. Specifically, I argue that new parties form when certain social groups are under-represented by the established parties; as social groups become increasingly distinct in terms of their political preferences, it becomes increasingly difficult for the existing parties to represent these groups of voters, thereby creating an opening for third parties to represent these groups of voters. While the primary focus is on three countries (Canada, the United Kingdom, and New Zealand), with the research design structured to rule out the effects of electoral systems, the argument also explains the number of parties observed cross-nationally.
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