The effects of party membership decline - A cross-sectional examination of the implications of membership decline on political trust in Europe
Recent research has established an extensive and persistent decline of party members throughout Europe since the 1960’s. However, research establishing the effects of membership decline is limited. This thesis will explore the impact of decline on society’s’ perception of politics. The outset is that membership decline is reflected in the levels of trust in parties. Two hypotheses are applied; First, that the levels of membership size affect the levels of trust in parties. Second, that changes in membership size can predict changes in trust in parties. The thesis applies statistical analysis, mainly through regression, and will do a cross-sectional comparison of 22 European countries. The causality will be tested in two ways; static, applying a specific time point (2008). And dynamic, through a time-interval of four years (2004-2008). Additionally, alternative explanation is considered using three control variables. Those are newness of democracy, GDP growth and party closeness. The results indicate that membership size has a strong effect on levels of trust when tested on a specific time period. The relationship remains statistically significant until the variable party closeness is applied. When testing the correlation over time, the effect is much weaker, and not significant. These results may change if a longer time series is applied, suggested by the strong results of the static model.