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An Epidemiological Approach to the Spread of Political Third Parties

35 Pages Posted: 9 Nov 2009  

Daniel M. Romero

Cornell University

Christopher M. Kribs-Zaleta

University of Texas at Arlington

Anuj Mubayi

University of Texas at Arlington

Clara Orbe

Columbia University

Date Written: November 9, 2009

Abstract

Third political parties are influential in shaping American politics. In this work we study the spread of a third party ideology in a voting population where we assume that party members/activists are more influential in recruiting new third party voters than non-member third party voters. The study uses an epidemiological metaphor to develop a theoretical model with nonlinear ordinary differential equations as applied to a case study, the Green Party. Considering long-term behavior, we identify three threshold parameters in our model that describe the different possible scenarios for the political party and its spread. We also apply the model to the study of the Green Party's growth using voting and registration data in six states and the District of Columbia to identify and explain trends over the past decade. Our system produces a backward bifurcation that helps identify conditions under which a sufficiently dedicated activist core can enable a third party to thrive, under conditions which would not normally allow it to arise. Our results explain the critical role activists play in sustaining grassroots movements under adverse conditions.

Keywords: Epidemiology, Political Parties, Differential Equations

JEL Classification: C32, C33, D72, D70, D71, D72, D80

Suggested Citation

Romero, Daniel M. and Kribs-Zaleta, Christopher M. and Mubayi, Anuj and Orbe, Clara, An Epidemiological Approach to the Spread of Political Third Parties (November 9, 2009). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1503124 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1503124

Daniel M. Romero (Contact Author)

Cornell University ( email )

657 Rhodes Hall
Ithaca, NY 14853-3801
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.cam.cornell.edu/~dromero/

Christopher M. Kribs-Zaleta

University of Texas at Arlington ( email )

415 S West St Apt no 205
Arlington, TX 76019
United States

Anuj Mubayi

University of Texas at Arlington ( email )

415 S West St Apt no 205
Arlington, TX 76019
United States

Clara Orbe

Columbia University ( email )

3022 Broadway
New York, NY 10027
United States

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