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Amateur hour: The dominance of purposive benefits among local political party chairs


Social Science Quarterly

Published online on


["Social Science Quarterly, EarlyView. ", "\nAbstract\n\nObjective\nPrevailing theories posit some party activists are amateurs, driven primarily by purposive benefits, while other activists are professionals, motivated mostly by material benefits. The decline of patronage and the rise of polarization suggest re‐examining the relevancy of this distinction.\n\n\nMethods\nThe study uses data from a 2019 survey of 1,060 local party chairs in the United States, covering 49 states.\n\n\nResults\nMost respondents are motivated by purposive benefits, while career motivations are relatively rare. Those who do derive material benefits are only slightly more centrist than their peers and are no more pragmatic and no less likely to derive purposive benefits. A substantial segment of local chairs are interested in seeking elective office, but the motivations of these individuals with ambitions connected to party activism are dominated by purposive benefits as much as those of the unambitious.\n\n\nConclusion\nThe study demonstrates the professional–amateur typology no longer accurately characterizes local party activists.\n\n"]