Roni Lehrer
Intra-Party Democracy and Party Responsiveness

West European Politics, 2012: 35, issue 6, pp. 1295-1319
ISSN: 0140-2382 (print), 1743-9655 (online)

This study examines whether parties respond to their supporters or to the median voter position. Party leaders require the support of the ‘selectorate’, which is defined as the group that has influence in party leadership selection. Inclusive parties, which rely on rank-and-file membership to select their leaders, will respond to their members. Exclusive parties, which rely on office-seeking members for leadership selection, will respond to the median voter position. Thus, intra-party institutions that (dis)enfranchise party members are crucial for understanding whether a party responds to their supporters (or to the median voter position). Using data from 1975–2003 for six West European countries, this article reports findings that inclusive parties respond to the mean party supporter position. While there is evidence that exclusive parties respond to the median voter position in two-party systems, this finding does not extend to multiparty systems. This study has implications for the understanding of intra-party institutions and political representation.