Do political parties determine their own destiny? Fuzzy set QCA to the influence of internal party processes in the policy change of political parties

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Why do political parties change their policies? Traditionally this is explained by way of external forces such as public opinion and the interaction with other parties. However, a growing body of evidence suggests that internal party processes may have an independent influence on how parties change their policies. This thesis aims to analyze whether political parties have an independent influence on policy change and if so how this takes place. This is analyzed through a fuzzy set QCA of six Dutch political parties in the period between 2002 and 2010. The main findings of this thesis are that internal party processes are a necessary and sometimes sufficient explanation of policy change. These findings challenge dominant approaches, such as the paradigmatic spatial theory. It seems that intra-party processes have more influence on the process of policy change, while external factors such as the public opinion have a larger influence on the direction of the change. An important enabling factor in policy change turns out to be the stability of the party. A stable party is one in which leadership has not changed in the last election and in which leadership and party are unified. An unstable party is the opposite. In six of the ten cases, the stability of a party determines whether the party will change. These conclusions suggest that future research should systematically focus on internal party processes, in order to more fully understand why and when political parties change their policies.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen