Glossary

What Are Parties and How Did They Form?

party platform the collection of a party’s positions on issues it considers politically important

personal politics a political style that focuses on building direct relationships with voters rather than on promoting specific issues

political machine an organization that secures votes for a party’s candidates or supports the party in other ways, usually in exchange for political favors such as a job in government

political parties organizations made up of groups of people with similar interests that try to directly influence public policy through their members who seek and hold public office

third parties political parties formed as an alternative to the Republican and Democratic parties, also known as minor parties

The Two-Party System

critical election an election that represents a sudden, clear, and long-term shift in voter allegiances

first-past-the-post a system in which the winner of an election is the candidate who wins the greatest number of votes cast, also known as plurality voting

majoritarian voting a type of election in which the winning candidate must receive at least 50 percent of the votes, even if a run-off election is required

party realignment a shifting of party alliances within the electorate

plurality voting the election rule by which the candidate with the most votes wins, regardless of vote share

proportional representation a party-based election rule in which the number of seats a party receives is a function of the share of votes it receives in an election

two-party system a system in which two major parties win all or almost all elections

The Shape of Modern Political Parties

majority party the legislative party with over half the seats in a legislative body, and thus significant power to control the agenda

minority party the legislative party with less than half the seats in a legislative body

party identifiers individuals who represent themselves in public as being part of a party

party-in-government party identifiers who have been elected to office and are responsible for fulfilling the party’s promises

party-in-the-electorate members of the voting public who consider themselves part of a political party or who consistently prefer the candidates of one party over the other

party organization the formal structure of the political party and the active members responsible for coordinating party behavior and supporting party candidates

precinct the lowest level of party organization, usually organized around neighborhoods

Divided Government and Partisan Polarization

bipartisanship a process of cooperation through compromise

divided government a condition in which one or more houses of the legislature is controlled by the party in opposition to the executive

gerrymandering the manipulation of legislative districts in an attempt to favor a particular candidate

moderate an individual who falls in the middle of the ideological spectrum

party polarization the shift of party positions from moderate towards ideological extremes

reapportionment the reallocation of House seats between the states to account for population changes

redistricting the redrawing of electoral maps

safe seat a district drawn so members of a party can be assured of winning by a comfortable margin

sorting the process in which voters change party allegiances in response to shifts in party position

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