The geography of political parties: towards a research agenda

Type: Paper
Sponsor Groups: Political Geography Specialty Group
Poster #:
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM (MDT)
Room: Virginia B, Marriott, Lobby Level
Organizers: Sam Halvorsen, Carl Truedsson
Chairs: Carl Truedsson


A rich tradition of research into political parties, largely led by sociologists and political scientists, has long suggested the centrality of spatiality to their growth, organisation and success yet has stopped short at elaborating this in any depth (Duverger, 1954; Michels, 1910; Panebianco, 1988). For their part geographers have revolutionised the study of elections (see Agnew, 1996; Forest, 2017) yet have only provided sporadic attempts to formulate a geographical theory of the political party. Where there has been engagement, analysis has tended to explore the implications of geography to parties’ electoral strategy (e.g. Fisher et al, 2016; Johnston and Pattie, 2014; Page and Dittmer, 2015; Park, 2003) and rarely are there attempts to understand the ongoing spatial mobilisation and development of party organisations (e.g. Scott and Wills, 2016). In an urban context, where political parties have been and remain a central political actor, geographers have paid surprisingly little attention (Low, 2007).

This session aims to explore the state-of-the-art in geographical research into political parties, map out promising areas, acknowledge gaps and point towards an emerging agenda for research. It seeks to bring together scholars working on any aspect of political parties’ spatial politics: both theoretical and empirical, and from diverse contexts (e.g. urban, rural, global north and south). Possible questions to explore include, but are far from limited to:

- What role does geography play in the organisation of political parties?
- How does spatiality shape party-building and decline?
- What are the appropriate scales for analysing political party strategy?
- What are the challenges for organising parties in the city?
- What are some of the regional patterns in terms of the geography of party formation?
- How might geography impact the vibrancy and survival of parties?

Agnew, J., 1996. ‘Mapping politics: How context counts in electoral geography’, Political Geography 15(2): 129-146.

Duverger M (1954) Political Parties Their Organization and Activity in the Modern State. Methuen: John Wiley.

Fisher et al, 2016 ‘Is all campaigning equally positive? The impact of district level campaigning on voter turnout at the 2010 British general election’, Party Politics 22(2): 215-226.

Forest, B., 2017. ‘Electoral Geography: From mapping votes to representing power’, Geography Compass online

Johnson, R. and Pattie, C., 2014. Money and Electoral Politics: Local parties and funding in general elections. Bristol: Polity Press.

Low, M., 2007. ‘Political parties and the city: some thoughts on the low profile of partisan organisations and mobilisation in urban political theory’, Environment and Planning A: 39: 2652-2667.

Michels, R., 1910. Political Parties: A Sociological Study of the Oligarchical Tendencies of Modern Democracy. London: Transaction.

Page, S. and Dittmer, J., 2015. ‘Assembling Political Parties’, Geography Compass 9(5): 251-261

Panebianco, A., 1988. Political Parties: organization and power. Cambridge: University of Cambridge Press.

Park, B., 2003. ‘Territorialized party politics and the politics of local economic development: State-led industrialization and political regionalism in South Korea’, Political Geography 22: 811-839

Scott, J. and Wills, J., 2017. ‘The geography of the political party: Lessons from the British Labour Party’s experiment with community organising, 2010 to 2015’, Political Geography 60: 121-131.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Emma Ormerod*, Newcastle University, The Politics of Place and the Place of Politics 20 8:00 AM
Presenter Sam Halvorsen*, Queen Mary University of London, Political Parties and the City: mobilisation, participation and representation in Buenos Aires 20 8:20 AM
Presenter Chris Erl*, McGill University, There’s a Party at City Hall: Political Parties and Candidate Diversity in Canadian Municipal Elections 20 8:40 AM
Presenter Elizabeth Ann Barrett*, University of West Florida, John Derek Morgan, University of West Florida, Jocelyn Evans, University of West Florida, Haris Alibašić, University of West Florida, Exploring spatial and ideological variation in town hall meetings across the United States 20 9:00 AM
Discussant Michael Heffernan University of Nottingham 20 9:20 AM

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