Below, I first describe the general measurement approach to measuring niche party presence; this can be used with any dataset that contains party-specific issue salience information.
On this page you can also find for each data source a short dataset with key information , a codebook and a pdf table that lists niche parties for each country.
Finally, I will use this page to track (published) academic books and papers that use the niche party concept. Feel free to contact me with further suggestions on academic literature to be included.
Measuring the presence of niche parties using salience/importance information
In the paper, I suggest that niche parties are best defined as parties that compete primarily on a small number of non-economic issues. This means that niche parties (a) do not emphasise economic issues and (b) emphasise a narrow range of non-economic issues.
The extent to which parties fulfil these two conditions will vary. While some parties very clearly offering niche-type programmes and others very clearly mainstream parties, many will fall somewhere in between the two extremes. This means that niche party status (or the 'nicheness' of a party) can also be seen as a continuum.
Yet, one may also want to establish, in a binary sense, whether a party is a niche competitor. I suggest the following steps to do so:
1) De-emphasis of economic issues.
Calculate the overall mean salience/importance of economic matters for the other parties in the party system. A weighted mean gives greater prominence to larger parties (a typical weight would be national vote share). The lower the importance of the economic issue for the party compared to the overall mean, the more the party de-emphasises economic matters.
As a cut-off value, one standard deviation distance from the weighted mean is suitable; in the paper, I suggest using weighted standard deviations to give greater prominence to larger parties. Then, parties that are more than one standard deviation below the weighted mean can be counted as clearly de-emphasising economic matters compared to their competitors.
2) Emphasis of one or more non-economic issues.
As with economic policy, calculate the (weighted) overall mean salience/importance of the issue in question for the other parties in the party system. The greater the importance of this issue for the party compared to the overall mean, the more the party emphasises this topic.
Again, a possible suitable cut-off is one (weighted) standard deviation above this mean.
3) High overall emphasis of one or more non-economic issues.
Depending on the data source, it may be necessary to implement a third condition, namely whether the party emphasises the issue compared to how much parties generally emphasise political issues. This condition is necessary when we want to make sure that the issue would be seen as heavily emphasised in general, that is, across all issues and parties. This can be measured, for example, by taking the overall (weighted) mean issue salience and checking how far above that mean the party's salience for that issue is. Again, one (weighted) standard deviation above that mean can be a suitable cut-off if required.
For a party to be classed as a niche party, all three conditions need to hold.
1) Meguid (2005, 2008):
Niche parties are defined as parties that a) focus on issues that fall outside the traditional class cleavage, b) confine themselves to a limited set of issues and c) address issues that cross-cut existing cleavages and party alignments. The best examples of niche parties under this definition are Green parties, radical right parties and ethno-territorial parties.
2) Adams et al. (2006), Ezrow (2010) and others:
Niche parties are parties that have 'non-centrist' or extreme ideologies on a general left-right dimension. Typical parties identified as niche parties under this approach are Green parties, Communist parties and radical right parties.
Below are three basic datasets, together with a brief codebook and a pdf table with basic results. Right-click to download. Other variables referred to in the paper are available upon request. Please e-mail me with any questions.
Benoit and Laver expert survey: Data Codebook pdf summary
Laver and Hunt expert survey: Data Codebook pdf summary
CMP dataset: Data Codebook pdf summary
Please note: When using this dataset, please cite both the paper describing niche party measurement and the sources of the original data.
Paper citation: Wagner, M. (2010) Definining and Measuring Niche Parties, Typescript.
Benoit, K. and M. Laver (2006) Party Policy in Modern Democracies, Routledge: London.
Laver, M. and W.B. Hunt (1992) Policy and Party Competition, Routledge: London
For the CMP data, cite these two sources:
Budge, I., H.-D. Klingemann, A. Volkens, J. Bara and E. Tanenbaum (2001) Mapping Policy Preferences: Estimates for Parties, Electors and Governments 1945-1998, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Klingemann, H.-D., A. Volkens, J. Bara, I. Budge and M. McDonald (2007) Mapping Policy Preferences II: Estimates for Parties, Electors and Governments in Central and Eastern Europe, European Union and OECD 1990-2003, Oxford University Press: Oxford.
Elias, A. (2009) ‘From Protest to Power: Mapping the Ideological Evolution of Plaid Cymru and the Bloque Nacionalista Galego’, Regonal and Federal Studies 19(4), 533 - 557.
Ezrow, L. (2008) ‘Research Note: On the inverse relationship between votes and proximity for niche parties’, European Journal of Political Research 47(2), 206-220.
Ezrow, L. (2010)
Linking Citizens and Parties: How Electoral Systems Matter for
Jensen, C.B., Spoon, J.-J. (2010) ‘Thinking locally, acting supranationally: Niche party behaviour in the European Parliament’, European Journal of Political Research 49(2), 174-201.
Meguid, B. (2005) ‘Competition Between Unequals: The Role of Mainstream Party Strategy in Niche Party Success’, American Political Science Review 99(3), 347-359.
Meguid, B. (2008)
Party Competition Between Unequals: Strategies and Electoral Fortunes
Spoon, J.-J. (2009)
‘Holding Their Own: Explaining the Persistence of Green