Kris Seago
Government/Political Science
Material Type:
Full Course
Academic Lower Division
Austin Community College
  • ACC Liberal Arts
    Creative Commons Attribution
    Media Formats:

    Party Identification


    Party Identification

    Learning Objective

    By the end of this section, you will be able to:

    • Understand party identification and the organization of the major political parties in Texas


    The Republican elephant and Democratic donkey
    Figure 9.7 Republican elephant and Democratic donkey icons. DonkeyHotey CC BY 2.0

    This section explores the psychological underpinnings, measurement, and expression of party identification in Texas.

    Political Ideologies

    A political ideology is a certain set of ethical ideals, principles, doctrines, myths or symbols of a social movement, institution, class or large group that explains how society should work and oers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order.

    Predominant Ideologies

    Political ideologies in the United States (and as a subset, Texas) refers to the various ideologies and ideological demographics in the United States. Citizens in the U.S. generally classify themselves as adherent to positions along the political spectrum as either liberal, progressive, moderate, or conservative. Modern liberalism aims at the preservation and extension of human, social and civil rights as well as the government guaranteed provision of positive rights. Conservatism commonly refers to a combination of economic liberalism and libertarianism, and to an extent, social conservatism. It aims at protecting the concepts of small government and individual liberty while promoting traditional values on some social issues.

    Political Ideology: Crash Course Government and Politics #35


    Liberals advocate strong civil liberties and social progressivism according to which societal practices need to be changed whenever necessary for the greater good of society or the benefits of those who wish to engage in those social arrangements. They believe that government action is needed in order for people to be as free as possible. The government must thereby ensure the provision of positive rights, protect civil liberties and ensure equality. Liberals commonly reject both laissez-faire capitalism and socialism as a means to distribute economic resources. A mixed economy, that is a capitalist free market economy with limited government regulation and intervention is seen as the ideal.


    The word “conservative” comes from “conserve,” hence describing those who generally wish to conserve the status quo, conserve morality, or conserve money. Views on individual policies vary among dierent sub-groups. Overall, a majority of conservatives support tax- cuts and other laissez-faire (reduced governmental interference) policies, oppose same-sex marriage, oppose abortion, oppose stricter gun control laws on the grounds of the Second Amendment and public safety, and favor increased military spending as opposed to other federal expenditures. Conservatives tend to favor (racial) color-blindness and oppose armative action/positive discrimination quotas. Conservatives tend to favor state governments over the federal, reserving the federal for matters of national security.


    Moderate is a general term for people who fall in the center category between Liberals and Conservatives.

    Moderates incorporate dierent aspects from liberalism and conservatism into their personal perspective. Moderates are commonly defined by limiting the extent to which they adopt liberal and conservative ideas

     Where do your beliefs come from? The Pew Research Center oers a typology quiz to help you find out. Ask a friend or family member to answer a few questions with you and compare results. What do you think about government regulation? The military? The economy? Now compare your results. Are you both liberal? Conservative? Moderate?

    Party Identification

    Party identification refers to the political party with which an individual identifies. Party identification is loyalty to a political party.  Party identification  is typically determined by the political party that an individual most commonly supports (by voting or other means).

    Some researchers view party identification as “a form of social identity,” or a psychological attachment in the same way that a person identifies with a religious or ethnic group. This identity develops early in a person’s life mainly through family and social influences. This description would make party identification a stable perspective, which develops as a consequence of personal, family, social and environmental factors. Other researchers consider party identification to be more flexible and more of a conscious choice. They see it as a position and a choice based on the continued assessment of the political, economic and social environment. Party identification can increase or even shift by motivating events or conditions in the country.

    A number of studies have found that a partisan lens aects how a person perceives the world. Partisan voters judge character flaws more harshly in rival candidates than their own, believe the economy is doing better if their own side is in power, and underplay scandals and failures of their own side.

    The past thirty years have brought a dramatic change in the relationship between the two parties as fewer conservative Democrats and liberal Republicans have been elected to oce. As political moderates, or individuals with ideologies in the middle of the ideological spectrum, leave the political parties at all levels, the parties have grown farther apart ideologically, a result called partisan polarization. Partisan polarization is the degree to which Democrats have become more liberal and Republicans have become more conservative. In politics, partisan polarization may make it increasingly more dicult for politicians to compromise on critical policy issues.

    Measuring Party Identification

    It is important to measure party identification in order to determine its strengths and weaknesses. Political scientists have developed many ways to measure party identification in order to examine and evaluate it.

    One American method of measuring party identification uses the Likert Scale, a 7-point scale to measure party identification, with Strong Democrat on one extreme and Strong Republican at the other. In between the two extremes are the classifications of “Lean Democrat/Republican” and “Weak Democrat/Republican.” 

    The Importance of Party Identification

    Political scientists often refer to party identification as a “vote determinant.” Those people who identify with a party tend to vote for their party’s candidate for various oces in high percentages. Those who consider themselves to be strong partisans, strong Democrats and strong Republicans respectively, tend to be the most faithful in voting for their party’s nominee for oce. In the case of voting for president, since the 1970s, party identification on voting behavior has been increasing significantly. By the late 1990s, party identification on voting behavior was at the highest level of any election since the 1950s.

    When voting in congressional elections, the trend is similar. Strong party identifiers voted overwhelmingly for their party’s nominee in the general election. It is important to note that each party respectively in certain elections, would have stronger voting behavior of their strongest party identifiers. For instance, in the years the Democrats dominated House and Senate elections in the 1970s and 1980s, it can be explained that their strong party identifiers were more loyal in voting for their party’s nominee for Congress than the Republicans were.

    The same level of voting behavior can also be applied to state and local levels.

    While straight-ticket voting has declined among the general voting population, it is still prevalent in those who are strong Republicans and strong Democrats. According to Paul Allen Beck and colleagues, “the stronger an individual’s party identification was, the more likely he or she was to vote a straight ticket.”

    The Distribution of Party Identification in Texas

    Using the methodology described above, the University of Texas and the Texas Tribune surveyed respondents about their party identification. Figure 9.8 illustrates the results.

    A bar graph of party identification in Texas
    Figure 9.8 Party Identification in Texas. UT/Texas Tribune February 2018 Poll. Image credit: Texas Politics Project, the University of Texas at Austin

    Democratic and Republican Party Organization

    Although many Texans claim that they are "registered Republicans" or "registered Democrats," Texas does not have a system of party registration. Registered voters may vote in either the Democrat or Republican primary.

    One of the most important functions of political parties is to select candidates to run for oce under the party label, which is currently accomplished through primary elections.

    Permanent Party Organization

    Organization of the parties themselves are often discussed in terms of the permanent organization of the party and the temporary (campaign) organization of the party (See Figure 9.9). In each election precinct, a precinct chair will be elected in the party primary. The precinct chair will head the precinct convention, in addition to serving on the party's county executive committee. In the primary, the county chair will also be elected. The county chair will lead the county executive committee, which is composed of the chair and precinct chairs. The main responsibility of the county executive committee is to run the county primary and plan the county conventions.

    At the state level, there is a state executive committee, which includes a state chair and vice-chair. These ocers are selected every two years at the state party conventions. The state executive committee:

    • accepts filings by candidates for statewide oce
    • helps raise funds for the party
    • and establishes party policy

    Temporary Party Organization

    The temporary organization of the party includes the precinct conventions. The main role of the precinct conventions is to select delegates to the county convention and to possibly submit resolutions that may eventually become part of the party platform.

    Delegates chosen at the precinct convention then go to the county conventions (or in urban areas, to district conventions). These conventions elect delegates to the state convention. Democratic and Republican parties hold state conventions every other year.

    At the state convention:

    • nominees are certified for statewide oce
    • a party platform is adopted
    • and a chair, vice-chair, and state executive committee is elected

    In presidential election years, the state conventions:

    • select delegates for the national party conventions
    • elect delegates for the national party committee
    • and choose presidential electors to the Electoral College
    A graphic of Texas party organizatoin
    Figure 9.9 Temporary Party Organization encompasses a large number of organized party supporters involved in choosing candidates and mobilizing voter support in primary and general election campaigns to win political power. Permanent Party Organization is run by a small collection of party faithful selected by the temporary party organization who conduct routine but essential   party business during and between elections. The elements of both aspects of party organization  are depicted using an organizational flow chart. Image created based on sources: Texas election code; Democratic and Republican party rules; credit: panOpen License: CC BY-SA