Party Democratization and the Salience of Party Leaders

Author(s): Kenneth McElwain, Michio Umeda



How has the democratization of Japanese political parties affected their public popularity and policy preferences? We focus on a major transformation in the 1990s: the introduction of electoral primaries, instead of a pure legislative vote, to select the party leader. We find two significant effects. First, leader primaries increase the short-term popularity of the party, in large part because those elections attract more media attention. Second, primaries have begun to accentuate intra-LDP divisions between rural vs. urban interests. Leader contenders generally differ in their geographical support bases, and while rural contenders have been more successful thus far, party membership is growing faster in urban areas. Both findings suggest that internal democratization has both immediate and long-term effects on the sources of party popularity.

Publication Information:

Name of Periodical: Journal of Social Science

Volume Number: 62

Issue Number: 1

Year of Publication: 2011