Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.
Fiorina. 2002. Parties, participation, and representation in America: Old theories face new realities. In Political Science: State of the Discipline, eds. Katznelson and Milner, pp. 511-541.
American democracy is sick; three negative trends demonstrate this (rising mistrust, declining turnout, falling social capital). Political scientists have advanced two main arguments about how to fix American democracy (strenghtening parties and increasing opportunities for participation), but they are "inconsistent with the judgments of the people who actually live under it" (pg 13): In other words, Americans don't seem to like the results of these two arguments (which have been implemented).
"My contention is not that party and participatory theorists had it wrong from the beginning, but rather that important implicit assumptions underlying both theories have been undermined by the evolution of American democracy. The consequence is that both theories are inaccurate now, whatever their merits fifty years ago." (pg 14)
Hypothesis: Politicians now have fewer opportunities for 'material' rewards than 50 years ago, increasing the importance of 'ideological' rewards. Thus, those who participate in politics have grown more extremist, causing increasing numbers of Americans to tune out.
Political science theories about parties and participation are outdated; they are based on conditions that existed from the mid-19th to mid-20th centuries, but do not exist today. Declining trust in government, declining voter turnout and participation, and declining civic engagement and social capital have changed the fundamental realities of American political life. "...[O]rdinary Americans are correct: empirical developments have left us teaching theories whose fit with reality has diminished" (pg 2).
"Some of the best political science minds of the 1930s and 1940s proposed a plan to improve American democracy. ... [M]uch of the plan has been implemented. But the result is not what the committee might have anticipated. Current generations of Americans who are blessed with [the results of these reforms] trust their government much less and participate less in politics than their predecessors who [did not enjoy the benefits of these reforms]." (pg 13)
Why do today's politicians and activists "weigh policy concerns more heavily vis-a-vis electoral considerations than their counterparts of earlier generations" (pg 20)?
The personal material rewards of political participation have diminished (pg 20). And as these incentives declined, "ideological incentives took up most of the slack"; they became relatively more important as motivating factors for particiation (pg 24). "People who went to meetings or worked in campaigns because their jobs depended on it [in the 1950s] were different from people who now do so out of ideological zeal" (pg 24).
Why "personal material rewards" have diminished:
The 2004 presidential election was exceptionally polarized (as Fiorina would predict) but had an increased turnout (against Fiorina's predictions)
Research by the same authors
Research on similar subjects