Summary: The concept party identification lies at the heart of much research on political preferences and behavior in established democracies. Drawing on data obtained from the British Household Panel Survey (1991-99) and the German Socio-Economic Panel Survey (1984-1998), we offer a fresh approach to the concept. Party identification is a stance that people take towards the political parties. They apply a consistent rule -a decision heuristic -persistently returning to the same preference year after year or behaving haphazardly, moving with no clear pattern among the choices. Most take a definitively negative stance towards one of the parties and a positive stance towards the other major party. Of these, about half display behavior that reflects a psychological commitment and about half are as likely as not to pick that party when asked. For most people, party identification is neither a loyalty, as conceived by traditional understanding associated with the Michigan -nor a calculated choice -as offered by rational choice theory -but a way to situate oneself persistently in relation to the relatively distant objects of politics.
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