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The Benefits of Conflict: How Factions Can Enhance Political Parties' Electoral Performance

Project description

When and how can factional conflict within parties be good for the party?

Factions exist within virtually all political parties. These are groupings within a party that differ ideologically from the rest of the party. Researchers of the EU-funded INTRAPARTY project are the first to study factions and their effects on political parties’ electoral success in Europe. The project will break new ground by combining theory testing and exploratory approaches from research in party politics, interest groups and computational social sciences. Its work will contribute to a deeper understanding of what a political party’s ‘inner life’ looks like and its electoral consequences.


Political parties and voters form important relationships in a democracy. The conventional wisdom is that divided parties lose elections. Yet the empirical evidence for this is ad hoc, and there are good reasons to suspect that it is, at best, a conditional wisdom. Firstly, the factional groups that divide parties vary in many different ways, even if the conventional wisdom treats them all the same. Secondly, since factions have somewhat different preferences than the rest of the party, they could also be useful in representing additional segments of society. However, there is currently no systematic analysis of the impact of factions – whether negative or positive – on a party’s electoral result.

INTRAPARTY is a comparative study of factions and their effects on political parties’ electoral success in Europe. By answering the overall research question of When and how can factions have positive effects on political parties’ electoral performance?, INTRAPARTY launches a new scientific inquiry that challenges the conventional wisdom and seeks to explain the positive effects of factions on parties’ electoral performance. It provides unprecedented theoretical and empirical insights into the true role of factions in representative democracies.

The project elaborates an original theory explaining factional effects on parties’ electoral performance that accounts for the inherent balancing factions face between inducing pressure but not harm on their party. Factions constitute a source of representation and reputation to voters that was previously neglected. Empirically, the project breaks new ground by combining theory-testing and exploratory approaches from research in party politics, interest group, and computational social sciences. By constructing an original comparative dataset on factions and parties over time and designing creative survey experiments to test voters’ reactions, the project tests the effects of factions on parties’ electoral success in Europe.

Host institution

Net EU contribution
€ 1 496 800,00
405 30 Goeteborg

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Södra Sverige Västsverige Västra Götalands län
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 1 496 800,00

Beneficiaries (1)