Audrey E. Brennan

Université Laval

Department of Political Science
Program: Ph.D.
Supervisor: Marc A. Bodet
Start: 2018
End: 2023

Title: Changing patterns of party participation : Political Party Involvement Following a Leadership Change Process

Political parties have been facing a major challenge in the last decades. They are losing traditional members, yet they know that a strong popular foundation is crucial to sustain their organization (Scarrow 2015). To recruit new members, political parties have decided to open up some crucial aspects of intra-party life to non-members. Particularly, political parties have increasingly opened the selection of party leaders to citizens that are not regular party members (Young and Cross 2002, Cross and Young 2008). The hope is to attract new supporters that could later become traditional members (Scarrow 2015), that would be willing to be involved in party activities in the long term (Brennan 2018). Yet, there is no evidence to show whether these recruitment tactics work to attract or to retain members and/or supporters. Are leadership change processes efficient in recruiting and mobilizing party members? More specifically, are those citizens attracted because of a leadership change in a political party involved in the same activities and in the same capacity as long-term activists? This project will address these questions by using a longitudinal study of party members over a two year period. This project innovates the field of research on political parties and political party membership in two important ways. The first, is by focusing on individual members and supporters as opposed to focusing on the political party elite. The second, is by looking at how they are involved with the party over time, as opposed to focusing only on why they initially joined. The goal is to better understand the extent to which parties remain grassroot organizations. Thereby, determining in what capacity political parties act as a link citizen and government, that they are still a vehicle for representative democracy. If citizens are disengaged from party politics, then political parties no longer are a link between citizen and state. Thus, representative democracy could in fact be facing a crisis because parties cannot fulfill their role.

Previous Awards
Mini-ARC seed money, Maison des sciences humaine, Université libre de Bruxelles (2018-2019); CSDC Graduate Student Research Grant (2017); Dept. of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht / Concordia University National University of Ireland, Irish intensive course. Galway Summer 2015