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Title: The dynamics of political activity and organisation
Author: Jeffs, Rebecca Amy
ISNI:       0000 0004 6057 361X
Awarding Body: University of South Wales
Current Institution: University of South Wales
Date of Award: 2015
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The main objective of this thesis is to produce an explanatory model of the changing membership of political parties, capable of reproducing past behaviour and of testing the same systems under alternative conditions. The thesis considers the appropriateness of the General Epidemic Model to political party growth, and considers other models in order to address the shortcomings of this. A System Dynamics model, the Limited Activist Model, is created using two word of mouth processes to illustrate member recruitment and the conversion of New Party Members into Activists. The model is successful in that it broadly explains party data using the word of mouth metaphor. However, the two nonlinear processes employed are found to be overly sensitive, and the model is not able to fully reproduce known data. This is shown to be due to an artificially low susceptible pool being used in the second word of mouth process. The model is revised in the Limited Activist Model by representing activity levels by two stocks of different types of party activist rather than by having flows for the differing activities. This illustrates members' changing roles but it does not relate membership change to the needs of the party. It is shown that although word of mouth is a good explanation of the growth and decline of political parties, it is insufficient to explain observed changes in known data. A new approach to modelling the growth and decline of political parties is created called the Supply & Demand Model which is based solely on the hypotheses of political science. Mechanisms include the Demand from the party for members, and the natural Supply of members to the party in response to an increase in political legitimacy. A generic 'limits to growth' archetype is created to handle soft variables such as Political Legitimacy and Media Portrayal. It is shown that the growth and decline hypotheses of political science are good explanations of the changes in political party size, but as in the Limited Activist Model the model is insufficient to explain all of the variations in the data. The Supply & Demand Model is able to explain the growth and decline in terms of what is exogenous and endogenous, but not how the party achieves their aims. For a Political Party to be successful they need to obtain a balance between the supply of members and the demand for members, while ensuring a healthy level of political legitimacy. The strengths of the Limited Activist Model are combined with the Supply & Demand Model in order to link what the party does and the context in which it is done, whilst exploring additional growth and decline mechanisms. A new approach to modelling political recruitment is outlined using a combination of the growth and decline hypotheses of political science and the epidemiological based approaches, the Hybrid Model. A disaggregated view of political party membership was used to take into consideration the different activity levels among activists in order to link recruitment to specific membership activity. Aspects such as party competition are also explored. The Hybrid Model was found to closely replicate known data, while linking what the party does and the context in which it is done. However, the large number of parameters made the initial state of the model difficult to estimate. As such, it is recommended that the Limited Activist Model and Supply & Demand model be used in unison instead of the Hybrid Model alone. The number and sensitivity of the factors within the Hybrid Model, and especially of the exogenous effects, suggest that no party can have a decisive corrective effect on its demise. To investigate this further, more research is proposed with regards to the type of members being recruited and how they joined, along with more research into the influence of the media. It is suggested that a more sophisticated model of leaving might also assist the party in determining how much of the change in membership is endogenous and in the party's control, and how much is exogenous and as such, partly out of their control. From the research carried out in this thesis it is suggested that political parties should be concerned about the recent decline in membership levels, and look for ways to enthuse existing supporters into recruiting members of the public in order to boost political legitimacy and ultimately win elections.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available