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Elite Driven Based Versus Mass Based Theories Of Explanations

1517 words - 7 pages

There has been a long debate on the advocating for elite driven based versus mass-based theories of explanations. This debate emerges when discussing political parties. This difference has manifested itself in the discussion of ideological space and the positioning of parties in that space. The question that emerges is whether the elites or masses are driving the issue emergence and ideological location of specific parties.
When setting the ideological agenda, issues emerge which then set the agenda and change where parties place themselves. Carmines and Stimson and Budge and Farlie research the ideological realignment based on issue emergence. Elites drive issue emergence and then work to own the issue. If the issue emerges in other elite driven party, even in niche parties, all parties will strive to own this issue. Change comes from elites changing something about their party, whether in ownership or based on polarization, critical elections, secular realignment, and dynamic evolution. All of these starts with the elites and the masses follow suite. However, with the issue positions and party location the masses are the dominant actor in this process. Once the issues emerge from the elites, the masses find their ideological stance in which parties move to gather the most votes.
Carmines and Stimson look at when parties have ideological realignment based on issue emergence. They believe that elites drive issue emergence. They have four theories of when realignment occurs. One is impulse decay. Impulse decay is when issue attitudes of the party group over time increase in polarization (Carmines and Stimson 137). This is salience vs. position. The second is a critical election. A critical election is when an election such as FDR in the New Deal brought about a spike and the party changed dramatically and stayed constant (Carmines and Stimson 138, 142). The third is secular realignment which is a gradual change on a straight line with a positive slope. This happens with population replacement, a change in generations amongst the political elite or the electorate the demography changes of the population (Carmines and Stimson 139). The fourth stance is a dynamic evolution. This dynamic evolution starts with a critical moment in which realignment changes gradually from a static place. This change will eventually level off (Carmines and Stimson 139-140). There evidence stems from voter opinion, political opinion which comes from survey data and the party platform information (Carmines and Stimsonn152). Their theory on elites versus mass-bases is the elites have to start the change based on issue emergence. The elites start this change and the masses follow which leads to an effect on polarization but it is up to the voter whether the issue might fade away. The issue may not stay salient due to new voters or demographic change.
Budge and Farlie also talk about ideological realignment and the salience of issues. In their model you need to know who...

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