Activist Model of Political Party Growth

Rebecca Jeffs, John Hayward, Paul A. Roach, John Wyburn

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The membership of British political parties has a direct influence on their political effectiveness. This paper applies the mathematics of epidemiology to the analysis of the growth and decline of such memberships. The party members are divided into activists and inactive members, where all activists influence the quality of party recruitment, but only a subset of activists recruit and thus govern numerical growth. The activists recruit for only a limited period, which acts as a restriction on further party growth. This Limited Activist model is applied to post-war and recent memberships of the Labour, Scottish National and Conservative parties. The model reproduces data trends, and relates realistically to historical narratives. It is concluded that the political parties analysed are not in danger of extinction but experience repeated periods of growth and decline in membership, albeit at lower numbers than in the past.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-372
Number of pages14
JournalPhysica A: Statistical Mechanics and its Applications
Early online date25 Sept 2015
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2016


  • political parties
  • social diffusion
  • differential equations
  • epidemics
  • population models
  • scoiophysics


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