Realigning election

A realigning election (often called a critical election, political realignment, or critical realignment) is a term from political science and political history describing a dramatic change in the political system. Scholars frequently apply the term to American elections and occasionally to other countries. Usually it means the coming to power for several decades of a new coalition, replacing an old dominant coalition of the other party as in 1896 when the Republican Party (GOP) became dominant, or 1932 when the Democratic Party became dominant. More specifically, it refers to American national elections in which there are sharp changes in issues, party leaders, the regional and demographic bases of power of the two parties, and structure or rules of the political system (such as voter eligibility or financing), resulting in a new political power structure that lasts for decades.

Realigning elections typically separate (what are known in the field of comparative politics as) Party Systems—with 1828, for example, separating the First Party System and the Second Party System in the U.S.

Political realignments can be sudden (1–4 years) or can take place more gradually (5–20 years). Most often, however, particularly in V. O. Key, Jr.'s (1955) original hypothesis, it is a single "critical election" that marks a realignment. By contrast a gradual process is called a "secular realignment." An American example was the change in the voting patterns among white Southerners, who from the 1870s to 1962 had overwhelmingly voted at the national and state levels for Democrats (what was called the "Solid South"). A critical election came in 1964 with a shift at the presidential level to the Republican (GOP) presidential candidates. However, there was a gradual shift toward the GOP at the state and local levels, as Aldrich (2000) and others have found. Democratic voting remained strong into the 1970s and only slowly shifted towards the GOP as state Republican organizations systematically broadened their base in the 1980s and 1990s.[1]

Political scientists and historians often disagree about which elections are realignments and what defines a realignment, and even whether realignments occur. The terms themselves are somewhat arbitrary, however, and usage among political scientists and historians does vary.

In the U.S., Walter Dean Burnham argued for a 30–38 year "cycle" of realignments. Many of the elections often included in the Burnham 38-year cycle are considered "realigning" for different reasons. Some political scientists, such as Mayhew (2004), are skeptical of the realignment theory altogether, saying there are no long-term patterns: "Electoral politics," he writes, "is to an important degree just one thing after another ... Elections and their underlying causes are not usefully sortable into generation-long spans ... It is a Rip Van Winkle view of democracy that voters come awake only once in a generation ... It is too slippery, too binary, too apocalyptic, and it has come to be too much of a dead end."

Realignment theory

The central holding of realignment theory, first developed in the political scientist V. O. Key, Jr.'s 1955 article, "A Theory of Critical Elections," is that American elections, parties and policymaking routinely shift in swift, dramatic sweeps.

V.O. Key Jr., E.E. Schattschneider, James L. Sundquist, Walter Dean Burnham and Paul Kleppner are generally credited with developing and refining the theory of realignment.[2] Though they differed on some of the details, scholars have generally concluded that systematic patterns are identifiable in American national elections such that cycles occur on a regular schedule: once every 36-years or so. This period of roughly 30 years fits with the notion that these cycles are closely linked to generational change. For social scientists, this point is important, since it helps to provide an objective sociological basis for the theory. Some, such as Schafer and Reichley, argue that the patterns are longer, closer to 50 to 60 years in duration, noting the Democratic dominance from 1800 to 1860, and Republican rule from 1860 to 1932. Reichley argues that the only true realigning elections occurred in 1800, 1860, and 1932.[3]

The alignment of 1860, with Republicans winning a series of close presidential elections, yielded abruptly in 1896 to an era of more decisive GOP control, in which most presidential elections were blowouts, and Democratic Congresses were infrequent and brief. Thirty-six years later, that system was displaced by a cycle of Democratic dominance, lasting throughout the Great Depression and beyond.[4]

Voter realignment

A central component of realignment is the change in behavior of voting groups. Realignment means the switching of voter preference from one party to another, in contrast to dealignment (where a voter group abandons a party to become independent or nonvoting). In the U.S. and Australia, as the ideologies of the parties define many of the aspects of voters' lives and the decisions that they make, a realignment by a voter tends to have a longer-lasting effect. In Britain and Canada, on the other hand, voters have a tendency to switch parties on a whim, perhaps only for one election, as there is far less loyalty towards a particular party.

United States

Realigning elections in United States history

Here is presented a list of elections most often cited as "realigning," with disagreements noted:

  • 1800 presidential electionThomas Jefferson
    • This election completed the turnover of power in the First Party System from the Federalist Party, led by Alexander Hamilton, to Jefferson and his Republican Party. The center of power shifted from New England to the South and Jeffersonian democracy became the dominant ideology.
    • Republicans gained 19.7% of House seats in 1800, 9.4% in 1802 and 9.7% in 1804, for a total gain of 38.8% in 3 elections.
    • As late as 1812, the Federalists came within one state of winning. A larger shift in electoral politics arguably came in the 1812–1816 period, as the Federalists became discredited after opposing the War of 1812.
  • 1828 presidential electionAndrew Jackson
  • 1860 presidential electionAbraham Lincoln
    • After the Whigs collapsed after 1852, party alignments were in turmoil, with several third parties, such as the Know Nothings and the Opposition Party. The system stabilized in 1858 and the presidential election marked the ascendence of the Republican Party. Abraham Lincoln beat out three other contenders — but even if they had somehow united he still had the majority of the electoral vote. The Republican party was pledged to the long-term ending of slavery, which was proximate cause of secession. Republicans rallied around nationalism in 1861 and fought the American Civil War to end secession. During the war the Republicans, under Lincoln's leadership, switched to a goal of short-term ending of slavery.[5] By 1864, the Republicans had a coalition built around followers of the "free labor" ideology, as well as soldiers and veterans of the Union Army (Since then, the military establishment has been solidly Republican).
      • The Republican Party went from 18.3% of the House in 1854, to 38.0% in 1856, 48.7% in 1858, and 59.0% in 1860, for a total gain of 40.7% in 4 elections.[6]
  • 1896 presidential electionWilliam McKinley
    • The status of this election is hotly disputed; some political scientists, such as Jerome Clubb, do not consider it a realigning election. Other political scientists and historians, such as Kleppner and Burnham consider this the ultimate realignment and emphasize that the rules of the game had changed, the leaders were new, voting alignments had changed, and a whole new set of issues came to dominance as the old Civil War-era issues faded away. Funding from office holders was replaced by outside fund raising from business in 1896 — a major shift in political history. Furthermore, McKinley's tactics in beating William Jennings Bryan (as developed by Mark Hanna) marked a sea change in the evolution of the modern campaigning. McKinley raised a huge amount of money from business interests, outspending Bryan by 10 to 1. Bryan meanwhile invented the modern technique of campaigning heavily in closely contested states, the first candidate to do so.[7] Bryan's message of populism and class conflict marked a new direction for the Democrats. McKinley's victory in 1896 and repeat in 1900 was a triumph for pluralism, as all sectors and groups shared in the new prosperity brought about by his policy of rapid industrial growth.[8][9]
    • While Republicans lost House seats in 1896, this followed a massive two-election gain: from 25.9% in 1890 to 34.8% in 1892 and 71.1% in 1894, for a total 45.2% gain. Republicans lost 13.4% in 1896, but still held 57.7% of House seats.
    • In terms of correlations among counties, the election of 1896 is a realignment flop, but this is only a problem if realignment is considered to occur in single elections. Rather, if realignment is thought of as a generational or long-term political movement, then change will occur over several elections, even if there is one "critical" election defining the new alignment. So, as pointed out above, the 1896 realignment really began around 1892, and the 130 seat GOP gain (after all, this is the all-time record) in 1894 meant there were almost no seats left to pick up in 1896. However, the presidential election in 1896 is usually considered the start of the new alignment since the national election allowed the nation to make a more conscious decision about the future of industrial policy by selecting McKinley over Bryan, making this the defining election in the realignment.[10] The election of 1876 passes the numbers test much better compared to 1896 alone, and Mayhew (2004) argues it resulted in far more drastic changes in United States politics: Reconstruction came to a sudden halt, African-Americans in the South would soon be completely disenfranchised, and politicians began to focus on new issues (such as tariffs and civil service reform).
  • 1932 presidential electionFranklin D. Roosevelt
    • Of all the realigning elections, this one musters the most agreement from political scientists and historians; it is the archetypal realigning election.[10] FDR's admirers such as Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. have argued that New Deal policies, developed in response to the crash of 1929 and the miseries of the Great Depression under Herbert Hoover, represented an entirely new phenomenon in American politics. More critical historians such as Carl Degler and David Kennedy see a great deal of continuity with Hoover's energetic but unsuccessful economic policies. There is no doubt Democrats vehemently attacked Hoover for 50 years. In many ways, Roosevelt's legacy still defines the Democratic Party; he forged an enduring New Deal Coalition of big city machines, the White South, intellectuals, labor unions, Catholics, Jews, and Westerners. In 1936, African-Americans were added to the coalition (African-Americans had previously been denied the vote or voted Republican). For instance, Pittsburgh, which was a Republican stronghold from the Civil War up to this point, suddenly became a Democratic stronghold, and has elected a Democratic mayor to office in every election since this time.
    • The Democrats went from controlling 37.7% of House seats in 1928 to 49.6% in 1930 and 71.9% in 1932, for a total gain of 34.2% in two elections.
    • In the Senate, the Democrats went from controlling 40.6% of seats in 1928 to 49% in 1930 and 61.5% in 1932, for a total gain of 20.9% in two elections.

Other possible realigning elections

  • 1874 elections
    • The 1874 elections saw a resurgence of the Democratic Party. Discontent with the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant and the economic depression known at the time as the Panic of 1873, and the slow return of disillusioned Liberal Republicans from their 1872 third party ticket, all energized the Democrats. The Democrats had not controlled either chamber of Congress since before the War. The realignment meant the Democrats generally controlled the House of Representatives from 1875 to their massive defeat in 1894. Republicans eked out very narrow wins in most of the presidential elections in that period. The Civil Rights Act of 1875, enacted in the lame-duck session of Congress following the 1874 elections, was the last major Reconstruction law, and it was chiefly of symbolic value. The new strength of the Democrats marked the end of Reconstruction legislation. With the end of Reconstruction, the 11 former states of the Confederacy became a dominant-party system known as the Solid South. The tariff and especially monetary policy emerged as the great ideological debates after 1874.[11][12]

Some debate exists today as to what elections (if any) could be considered realigning elections after 1932.[13] Although several candidates have been proposed, there is no widespread agreement:

  • 1964 and 1968 presidential electionsLyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon
    • The 1968 election is often cited due to the innovative campaign strategy of Nixon.[14] In running against Hubert Humphrey, he used what became known as the Southern strategy. He appealed to white voters in the South with a call for "states' rights," which they interpreted as meaning that the federal government would no longer demand the forced busing of school children as ordered by federal courts. Democrats protested that Nixon exploited racial fears in winning the support of white southerners and northern white ethnics.[15] Roosevelt's New Deal coalition had lasted over 30 years but after the urban riots and Vietnam crisis of the mid 1960s one by one the coalition partners peeled away until only a hollow core remained, setting the stage for a GOP revival. Nixon's downfall postponed the realignment which came about under Reagan, as even the term "liberalism" fell into disrepute.
    • Including this as a realignment preserves the roughly 30-year cyclical pattern: 1896 to 1932, 1932 to 1964, and 1964 to 1994.
    • For political scientists, 1964 was primarily an issue-based realignment. The classic study of the 1964 election, by Carmines and Stimson (1989), shows how the polarization of activists and elites on race-related issues sent clear signals to the general public about the historic change in each party's position on Civil Rights. Notably, while only 50% of African-Americans self-identified as Democrats in the 1960 National Election Study, 82% did in 1964, and the numbers are higher in the 21st century. The clearest indicator of the importance of this election, was that Deep Southern states, such as Mississippi, voted Republican in 1964. In contrast, much of the traditional Republican strongholds of the Northeast and Upper Midwest voted Democratic. Vermont and Maine, which stood alone voting against FDR in 1936, voted for LBJ in 1964.
    • Many analysts do not consider 1968 a realigning election because control of Congress did not change; the Democrats would control the Senate until 1980 (and again from 1986 to 1994) and the House until 1994.[10] Also missing was a marked change in the partisan orientation of the electorate. Importantly, these two elections are consistent with the theory in that the old New Deal issues were replaced by Civil Rights issues as the major factor explaining why citizens identified with each party. Other scholars[16] contend that this is the beginning of a thirty-year dealignment, in which citizens generally moved towards political independence, which ended with the 1994 election.
  • 1980 presidential electionRonald Reagan
  • 1992 presidential electionBill Clinton
    • Clinton carried several states that had previously been Republican or swing states in both the Northeast and on the West Coast. Most notably, the largest state California switched from being a reliably Republican state to being consistently Democratic: it has been carried by Democratic candidates ever since. Other states that switched and have remained with the Democrats since include Connecticut, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and Vermont. In contrast, despite the fact Clinton came from the South, he only carried four of the former Confederate states: Arkansas (his home state), Louisiana, Tennessee (his vice president's home state) and Georgia, confirming it as a Republican base of support.
    • Since 1992, the Democratic candidate has won the national popular vote in every presidential election except 2004, suggesting some manner of national realignment away from the Republican domination of the 1970s and 1980s. This national tendency toward Democratic presidential candidates did not necessarily translate to Democratic victories in congressional elections. However Republicans remained competitive nationally, making historic gains in the 1994 and 2010 midterms, although the composition of the electorate in presidential versus midterm elections vary significantly.[24]
  • 1994 House of Representatives and Senate elections[1]
    • This election is now generally seen as a realigning election by political scientists.[1] Republicans won majorities in both the House and the Senate, taking control of both chambers for the first time since 1954. In addition, control of the House continued until 2007. Newt Gingrich, who promoted a "Contract with America", successfully nationalized the campaign by coordinating races around the country. The overwhelming nature of the Republicans' victory points to a realignment; the party gained 54 seats (in a chamber of only 435), while neither party would gain more than a handful of seats in any election until 2006.
    • The GOP gained seats in 43 of 46 state houses. These gains continued into the next decade, so that by 2002 the GOP held the majority of state legislative seats for the first time in fifty years.[1]
    • Notably, the period of party decline and mass dealignment appears to have ended in the 1990s. Strength of partisanship, as measured by the National Election Study, increased in the 1990s, as does the percentage of the mass public who perceive important differences between each party.[1]
    • This election also indicates the rise of religious issues as one of the most important cleavage in American politics. While Reagan's election hinted at the importance of the religious right, it was the formation of the Christian Coalition (the successor to the Moral Majority) in the early 1990s that gave Republicans organizational and financial muscle, particularly at the state level.[25] By 2004 the media portrayed the political nation as divided into "red" (Republican) and "blue" (Democratic) states, with reputed differences in cultural attitudes and politics between the two blocs.
    • The Republicans made historic inroads in the Solid South where they picked up total of 19 House seats. Going into the election, House Democrats outnumbered House Republicans. Afterwards, the Republicans outnumbered Democrats for the first time since Reconstruction.[26]
  • 2008 presidential electionBarack Obama
    • In the 2008 elections, the Democrats expanded their majorities in the Congress, and won the presidency decisively. This was due to the momentum carried over from the Democrats' 2006 successes, as well as the continued unpopularity of President George W. Bush, whose administration was now faced with a financial crisis and economic recession. Some people believe that 2008 is possibly a realigning election with a long-lasting impact, just as the election of Franklin D. Roosevelt was in 1932 and the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980 were.[27][28] President Obama was reelected in the 2012 election as well, becoming only the third Democrat to win an absolute majority of the popular vote more than once[29] while losing only two entire states that he had won in 2008.[30]
    • On the other hand, the Republican Party experienced major gains two years later in 2010, retaking the house with a gain of 63 seats, the largest Republican gain in 80 years. Additionally, the Republican Party gained 6 seats in the Senate, slimming the Democratic majority. Despite Obama's reelection in 2012, the Republicans had another strong performance in the 2014 midterms; they not only increased their majority in the House and recaptured the Senate, but also made gains in the gubernatorial races and other statewide and local races, resulting in 31 Republican governorships and 68 state legislative houses under Republican control, thus increasing their influence to the largest Republican majority in the entire country in nearly a century.[31][32][33]
  • 2016 presidential electionDonald Trump
    • In this election, Donald Trump, the Republican candidate, won Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania, all Midwestern and/or Rust Belt states that some had previously considered safely Democratic, though those states were close in several prior elections. Trump also came close to winning New Hampshire, Minnesota and Maine and outperformed previous Republican candidates in Connecticut and Rhode Island, winning more counties and towns in the Northeast than any Republican since 1988.
    • The Republican Party maintained their lead in both the House and Senate.
      • The Republicans set a modern record of holding 33 governorships and fully controlling 32 state legislatures.[34]
    • However, like with the 2008 Obama election, two years later in the 2018 United States elections, the Republican Party lost control of the House in a loss of 40 seats, and gained a few seats in the Senate, so the full effect of the 2016 election and Trump Presidency as a critical election remains to be seen.


The history of the critical realigning elections in Canada, both nationally and in the provinces, is covered by Argyle (2011).[35]

Behiels (2010) suggests that experts in Canadian politics[36] are now reporting that a watershed political realignment is underway, the kind of shift that occurs but once a century. In light of the 2004, 2006, and 2008 minority government elections and the success of Stephen Harper, many journalists, political advisors, and politicians argue that a new political paradigm is emerging, and it is based on Harper's drive for a right-wing political party capable of reconfiguring the role of the state – federal and provincial – in twenty-first-century.[37] Bloomfield and Nossal (2007) suggest that the new political alignment has reshaped Canadian foreign policy, especially in improving relations with the U.S., taking a harder line on the Middle East conflicts, and backing away from the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.[38]

Party systems model

According to recent scholarship there have been four party systems in Canada at the federal level since Confederation, each with its own distinctive pattern of social support, patronage relationships, leadership styles, and electoral strategies.[39] Steve Patten identifies four party systems in Canada's political history[40]

  • The first party system emerged from pre-Confederation colonial politics, had its "heyday" from 1896 to 1911 and lasted until the Conscription Crisis of 1917, and was characterized by local patronage administered by the two largest parties, the Liberals and the Conservatives.
  • The second system emerged following the First World War, and had its heyday from 1935 to 1957, was characterized by regionalism and saw the emergence of several protest parties, such as the Progressives, the Social Credit Party, and the Co-operative Commonwealth Federation.
  • The third system emerged in 1963 and had its heyday from 1968 to 1983 and began to unravel thereafter. The two largest parties were challenged by a strong third party, the New Democratic Party. Campaigns during this era became more national in scope due to electronic media, and involved a greater focus on leadership. The dominant policy of the era was Keynesian economics.
  • The fourth party system has involved the rise of the Reform Party, the Bloc Québécois, and the merger of the Canadian Alliance with the Progressive Conservatives. It saw most parties move to one-member-one-vote leadership contests, and a major reform to campaign finance laws in 2004. The fourth party system has been characterized by market-oriented policies that abandoned Keynesian policies, but maintained the welfare state.

Clarkson (2005) shows how the Liberal Party has dominated all the party systems, using different approaches. It began with a "clientelistic approach" under Laurier, which evolved into a "brokerage" system of the 1920s, 1930s and 1940s under Mackenzie King. The 1950s saw the emergence of a "pan-Canadian system", which lasted until the 1990s. The 1993 election — categorized by Clarkson as an electoral "earthquake" which "fragmented" the party system, saw the emergence of regional politics within a four party-system, whereby various groups championed regional issues and concerns. Clarkson concludes that the inherent bias built into the first-past-the-post system, has chiefly benefited the Liberals.[41]


1896 saw a Liberal victory; Sir Wilfrid Laurier Prime Minister. From the 1867 election until 1896, the Conservative Party of Sir John A. Macdonald had governed Canada, excepting a single term from 1873 to 1878. The Liberals had struggled to retake office, under Laurier and his predecessor, Edward Blake. 1896 was the first election held after the death of Macdonald in 1891, and the Conservatives had been in complete disarray in the ensuing years, with no less than four different leaders. The Liberals would remain in office until 1911. Beyond that, political scientists often consider this election that made the Liberal Party the dominant force in Canadian politics, holding office for more than two thirds of the time between 1896 and 2006.[42]


1984 saw the victory of the Progressive Conservatives under Brian Mulroney. The election of 1984 not only saw Brian Mulroney's Progressive Conservatives win the largest number of seats in Canadian History (211 of 282), and the second largest majority (behind John Diefenbaker's 208 of 265 in 1958), it ended over twenty years of Liberal rule, not counting the brief 19791980 tenure of Joe Clark. The Liberal Party under prime minister John Turner suffered its worst defeat ever at the time, winning a mere 40 seats. At the time, it was the worst defeat of a sitting government in Canadian history. Turner had just succeeded Pierre Trudeau as prime minister when he decided to call the election, and the Liberals were losing popularity due to the downfall of the economy and Trudeau's last minute patronage appointments.

The PCs' victory was aided in large part by a massive breakthrough in Quebec, winning 58 seats as compared to the one Quebec seat they won in 1980; Mulroney successfully campaigned in Quebec on a message that Trudeau's Liberals had "sold out" the province during the process of patriating the Canadian constitution in 1982, due to the fact that Quebec never formally signed on to the new constitution. The Liberals were cut down to only 17 seats, all but four of them in Montreal. Although Quebec had been a Liberal stronghold since 1896 (with the exception of 1958), from 1984 to the Canadian federal election, 2015 the Liberals failed to win the most seats in the province (they came close in 2000 and took the majority by winning several by-elections), making this province the most long-lasting realignment in this election.

Although Mulroney is often grouped with contemporary conservative leaders Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan, and the 1984 election is seen as Canada's version of the 1979 United Kingdom and 1980 United States elections, Mulroney proved in practice to be a relatively centrist leader.


1993 saw not only the sweeping success of the Liberals under Jean Chrétien, but also the fracturing the Progressive Conservatives' support base to regional parties in Quebec and the western provinces; resulting in a five party political system with the Liberals as the dominant party.[43] Throughout Canadian history two parties had taken turns in government and opposition: the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives (sometimes known as Liberal-Conservatives, Conservatives, Union and National Government). The Conservative majority election victories in 1984 and 1988 were based on a "Grand Coalition" between socially conservative populists from the West, Quebec nationalists, and fiscal conservatives from Ontario and the Maritimes, making it difficult for the Mulroney government to balance these diverse interests. During his second term, Mulroney's policies were unpopular, while the failure of the Meech Lake and Charlottetown Accords frustrated Quebec and stirred up Western alienation. New regional parties which formed in protest to Mulroney's government, the Bloc Québécois in Quebec and the Reform Party in the west won many seats formerly held by the PCs despite a lack of national support. The New Democratic Party, the longtime third party in parliament, fell from 43 seats to nine. The unpopularity of the provincial NDP governments in Ontario and BC reflected badly on the federal NDP, also their endorsement of the Charlottetown Accord and Quebec nationalism cost them support among organized labour and rural voters in the West, which switched their support to Reform. Meanwhile, the Progressive Conservatives were nearly wiped out, falling from 151 seats to only two—the worst defeat of a sitting government at the federal level.

The Liberals under Chrétien would win a further two consecutive majorities in 1997 and 2000, while never being seriously challenged as the largest party. The Progressive Conservatives never recovered, winning 20 (of 301) seats in 1997 and 12 in 2000 before merging with the Reform Party's successor, the Canadian Alliance, to form the new Conservative Party of Canada in late 2003. Due to competition with the Liberals for left-leaning voters, the New Democrats had mixed successes in the next several elections, winning 21 in 1997 but dropping back to 13 in 2000, unable to approach their high-water mark showing until 2006.


While Paul Martin's Liberals retains enough seats to continue as the government, it saw the re-emergence of the Conservatives and the resurgence of Bloc Québécois; resulting in a four party system with the ruling party as a minority government. This was the first of three elections where no party managed a majority of seats.

Martin succeeded a retiring Jean Chrétien in 2003 and initially polls predicted that the Liberals could expand their control of Parliament in the next election, as Martin sought inroads in Quebec and Western Canada, while the newly created Conservative Party was besought by controversy over its merger.[44] However, the revelation of the sponsorship scandal, along with party infighting between Chrétien and Martin weakened the Liberals, while the reunited Conservatives became a viable governing alternative, and the rejuvenated Bloc Québécois. At mid-campaign, polls predicted a Conservative lead, but the Liberals regained enough support to win a plurality of seats to remain the governing party.

Several trends would also begin in 2004 which signaled the Liberal party's decline; notably a high turnover of permanent party leaders (in contrast to their predecessors who usually served over two or more elections),[45] and its inability to raise campaign funds competitively once Chrétien banned corporate donations,[46] and it would gradually lose support to the Conservatives, and later to the NDP.

The 2004 election paved the way for the election of 2006, which brought about the first electoral victory of a Canadian conservative party since 1988 and the first conservative government in Canada since November 1993. This ended 13 years of Liberal government, whose minority government in 2004–2006 was propped up by the New Democratic Party until they withdrew their support after fallout from the sponsorship scandal. As early as 1989, conservative Stephen Harper had theorized that a realignment would occur, pitting middle-class taxpayers against middle-class tax recipients.[47]


The election resulted in a Conservative majority victory under the leadership of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, after forming two consecutive minority governments.[48][49] The Liberals dropped to third party status in Parliament for the first time, having previously always been either the governing party or the official opposition, and also no longer had a significant number of seats in Quebec (their bastion of support from 1892 to 1984) or Ontario (a stronghold since 1993, especially the Greater Toronto Area). Some suggested that Rob Ford's mayoral victory in November 2010 had paved the way for the federal Conservatives' successes in Toronto, with right-of-centre politicians garnering significant support from immigrants that traditionally supported the Liberals.[50][51] The New Democratic Party, led by Jack Layton, won 103 seats to become the official opposition for the first time in party history, as a late-campaign surge of support in Quebec took them from one to 59 seats at the expense of the other parties, particularly the Bloc Québécois which saw their 47 seats in that province reduced to a rump of four seats. The Bloc had previously won the majority of Quebec's seats from 1993 to 2008. The party leaders of the Liberals and the Bloc, Michael Ignatieff and Gilles Duceppe, respectively, were personally defeated in their own constituencies. This marked a return to the three party system in parliament which was last seen in the 1988 election.[43][44]

Commentators after the major shakeup in 2011 stressed the theme of a major realignment. The Economist said, "the election represents the biggest realignment of Canadian politics since 1993."[52] Lawrence Martin, commentator for the Globe and Mail said, "Harper has completed a remarkable reconstruction of a Canadian political landscape that endured for more than a century. The realignment sees both old parties of the moderate middle, the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals, either eliminated or marginalized."[53] Maclean's said, the election marked "an unprecedented realignment of Canadian politics" as "the Conservatives are now in a position to replace the Liberals as the natural governing party in Canada." Andrew Coyne proclaimed "The West is in and Ontario has joined it", noting that the Conservatives accomplished the rare feat of putting together a majority by winning in both Ontario and the western provinces (difficult due to traditionally conflicting interests), while having little representation in Quebec.[43][54]


After the longest campaign in modern Canadian history, the voters ousted Harper's Conservative government and elected a new national government on October 19, 2015. The new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau led his Liberal Party to a majority government. The Conservative Party fell to second place with 99 seats, marking a return to previous system with the New Democratic Party returning into a third party status after achieving Official Opposition in 2011. The Liberal Party also won a majority of seats in Quebec for the first time since 1980.[55]


  • Alberta general election, 1971 – End of the 36-year unbroken rule of the Social Credit Party, in favour of the Progressive Conservatives. Peter Lougheed's Conservatives defeated the Socreds led by Premier Harry E. Strom. Although the Socreds lost only a small share of its popular vote from 1967, their support in the province's two largest cities, Edmonton and Calgary, almost disappeared. They lost all of their seats in Edmonton, and all but five seats in Calgary.
    • There were ominous signs of Socreds' decline in the 1967 election, in which they failed to win 50% of the popular vote since 1955. Longtime Premier Ernest C. Manning retired a few months later. His successor Strom had been unable to revive a party that had grown tired and complacent, while the collapse of the other opposition parties made the PCs the only credible challenger to the Socreds. The Socreds sank into near-paralysis in opposition, being ill-prepared for that role after being the governing party for virtually all of its history prior to 1971. Their support collapsed in the 1975 election, in which they barely held onto official status. Although the Socreds stayed in the legislature until 1982, they were never a force Albertan politics again.
    • The Progressive Conservatives won every election since 1968, prior to 2015, despite losing some luster during Don Getty's tenure of 1985–1992, they have regained strength under Ralph Klein.
  • Alberta general election, 2015 - The 44-year unbroken rule of the Progressive Conservatives (which begun in 1971) was ended by the Alberta New Democratic Party, who won a majority government and reduced the PCs to third place in the legislature .

British Columbia

  • British Columbia general election, 1991 – End of Social Credit as an effective political force in British Columbia politics. The Socreds under Premier Rita Johnston was reduced to third party status, while the New Democratic Party of Mike Harcourt formed the government. Liberal Party leader Gordon Wilson surprised observers by leading his party to winning one-third of the votes cast. This was enough to not only return them to the legislature, but make them the official opposition.
  • The Socreds had been beset by scandals during Bill Vander Zalm's last term as premier. Party control shifted from urban fiscal conservatives to social conservatives, causing the coalition to unravel and pushing many moderates to eventually switch to the Liberals. After Premier Vander Zalm resigned, Socred members voted the lesser-known Johnston, a close ally of Vander Zalm, over Grace McCarthy. Many viewed this as a mistake, as Johnston was close to the Vander Zalm legacy; even NDP leader Harcourt admitted later that he preferred Johnston over McCarthy. Wilson's party gained gradually but surged after his strong performance in the televised leaders' debates' Wilson was initially not invited and took legal action to overturn his exclusion. However, once he became opposition leader, Wilson proved unable to consolidate the party's leadership; he was eventually deposed and later became a New Democrat.
  • British Columbia general election, 2001 - The centre-right coalesced around the BC Liberal Party, which won 77 of 79 seats and 57.6% of the popular vote. This essentially rebuilt much of the Socred coalition around the BC Liberal Party. At the same time, the NDP faced significant unpopularity after several scandals (such as the Fast Ferry Scandal), and failed to break the Liberal majority until 2017.


A considerable number of Quebec general elections have been known characterized by high seat turnovers, with certain ones being considered realigning elections, notably:

The Quebec Liberal Party (unaffiliated with the federal Liberals since 1955) survived since Confederation but they have faced different opposition parties, several of which had formed the government, often alternating with the Liberals.

Since the 1990s, provincial elections in Quebec show increasing voter realignment and volatility in party support.[56]

Realigning elections outside of North America


  • Indian general election, 1977
  • Israeli legislative election, 1977
    • Likud defeated the Alignment, led by the Israel Labor Party, allowing Likud to lead a government for the first time ever. For the first 29 years of Israel's independence, politics had been dominated by Labor and its predecessor, Mapai. Pior to this election a hypothetical bloc of Right-wing and Religious parties would rarely ever approach the threshold of a majority government however since 1977 a combination of these two blocs have made up the majority of Israel's electorate since then with exceptions of a few elections but no longer running far behind in comparison to prior to 1977. Due to corruption in the Labor Party many former Labor voters defected to the new Democratic Movement for Change, which won 15 seats coming in third behind the Likud with 46 seats and Alignment (Labor plus Mapam) with 32 seats. The DMC collapsed within three years, allowing Labor to rebound in the next election. Labor and Likud dominated Israeli politics until 2003 when Labor went into sudden decline due to a backlash against the failed Oslo Accords and the outbreak of the Second Intifada.
  • Republic of China presidential election, 2000 (Taiwan) — Chen Shui-bian
    • Though more popular and consistently ranked higher in the polls, James Soong failed to gain the ruling Kuomintang's (KMT) nomination over incumbent Vice President Lien Chan. As a result, he announced his candidacy as an independent candidate, and was consequently expelled from the party. The split in the KMT vote resulted in a victory for Chen Shui-bian of the Democratic Progressive Party, even though he won only 39% of the popular vote. After the election, Soong founded the People First Party, which attracted members from the KMT and the pro-unification New Party, which was by that time beginning to fade. Angry from the defeat, the KMT expelled chairman Lee Teng-hui, who was president until 2000 and was widely suspected of causing the KMT split so that Chen would win. Lee then founded the pro-independence Taiwan Solidarity Union. The impact of these events changed the political landscape of Taiwan. Not only did the KMT lose the presidency for the first time in half a century, but its policies swung away from Lee's influence and it began intra-party reform. The two newly founded parties became far more viable than other minor parties in the past, and the multi-party nature of Taiwan's politics was confirmed by the legislative elections of 2001. The KMT would not return to power until 2008 under the leadership of Ma Ying-jeou.
  • Turkish general election, 2002Justice and Development Party victory
  • Palestinian legislative election, 2006 (Palestinian National Authority) — Hamas victory; Ismail Haniyeh Prime Minister
    • In January 2006 the militant Hamas organization, classified as a terrorist group by the United States government and other groups, won a landslide victory over the ruling Fatah party which had been in power under the leadership of former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. The Bush Administration, the Quartet, and Israel all threatened to cut off aid to the Palestinian Authority if Hamas refused to abandon terrorist tactics and recognize the right of the State of Israel to exist. This concession, though discussed in Hamas circles, did not come about soon enough to prevent a serious breakdown in services under Hamas government, and Western (especially American) support of Fatah paramilitaries eventually led to the breakout of the Fatah–Hamas conflict (termed a "Palestinian Civil War" by some) in December 2006. The Hamas government was suspended by PA President Mahmoud Abbas, a member of Fatah, after some weeks of fighting, and installed a caretaker government under the leadership of Salam Fayyad.


Latin America




New Zealand

  • New Zealand general election, 1890Liberal victory; John Ballance Prime Minister
    • The coming to power of the Liberal Party is heralded as a major milestone in New Zealand history. It marked the beginning of proper party politics in New Zealand. While groupings of 'Liberal' and 'Conservative' politicians date back to the 1870s they were more akin to loose factions rather than properly organised parties. Massive economic and social reforms took place following 1890 with a progressive land tax partnered with leasehold sponsorship to stimulate agriculture which recovered the country from the Long Depression. Ballance's successor Richard Seddon carried on reforms concentrating largely on establishing welfare. Arguably the Liberal's most famous and important achievement was the enfranchisement of women, a major social upheaval which saw New Zealand become the first country in the world to allow women to vote.
  • New Zealand general election, 1935Labour victory; Michael Joseph Savage Prime Minister
    • The 1935 election brought Labour to power for the first time. Huge economic change resulted from their entry into office at the height of the Great Depression which was to remain in place for half a century. A generous welfare system labeled as "social security" was instigated and the country's existing free market economy was completely abandoned in favour of a Keynesian based system with higher tariffs, guaranteed prices for producers and emphasis on local manufacturing to create jobs. The government was praised for their policies resulting in another landslide victory in 1938. The political landscape was also to change, with the three party era ending with the United and Reform parties (who had formed a coalition between 1931 and 1935) completely merging into the new National Party, who remain Labour's main rival to the present day, both occupying either government or opposition ever since.
  • New Zealand general election, 1984Labour victory; David Lange Prime Minister
    • The election of the Labour Government under the leadership of David Lange and Roger Douglas, brought about radical economic reform, moving New Zealand from what had probably been one of the most protected, regulated and state-dominated system of any capitalist democracy to an extreme position at the open, competitive, free-market end of the spectrum. Social policies also took a dramatic change with New Zealand's largely socially conservative outlook being reshaped with more liberal outlooks in the Lange government's policy epitomised by policies such as the passing of anti-nuclear legislation and the legalisation of homosexuality. Foreign relations also changed dramatically with New Zealand abandoning their allegiances with the United States, largely over the issue of anti-nuclear policy, culminating in their exclusion from ANZUS by both the US and Australia.
  • New Zealand general election, 1996NationalNew Zealand First coalition victory; Jim Bolger Prime Minister
    • The 1996 election was the first held under the new mixed-member proportional (MMP) voting system, introduced after two referendums in 1992 and 1993, and signalled the transition from the two-party era to a new multi-party era.

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d e Jenkins et al. (2006)
  2. ^ Schafer (1991); Rosenof (2003)
  3. ^ Reichley, A. James (2000). The Life of the Parties (Paperback ed.). Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 8–12.
  4. ^ Sundquist (1982); Rosenof (2003)
  5. ^ a b Silbey (1991)
  6. ^ Michael F. Holt, The Political Crisis of the 1850s (1978)
  7. ^ Robert J. Dinkin, Campaigning in America: A History of Election Practices (1989)
  8. ^ Lewis L. Gould, "New Perspectives on the Republican Party, 1877–1913," American Historical Review, Vol. 77, No. 4 (Oct., 1972), pp. 1074–1082
  9. ^ Burnham (1986)
  10. ^ a b c Schafer (1991)
  11. ^ Campbell, James E. (Fall 2006). "Party Systems and Realignments in the United States, 1868-2004". Social Science History. 30 (3): 359–386. doi:10.1215/01455532-2006-002. JSTOR 40267912.
  12. ^ Barreyre, Nicolas (October 2011). "The Politics of Economic Crises: The Panic of 1873, the End of Reconstruction, and the Realignment of American Politics". The Journal of the Gilded Age and the Progressive Era. 10 (4): 403–423. doi:10.1017/s1537781411000260. JSTOR 23045120.
  13. ^ Mayhew (2004); Rosenof (2003); Shafer (1991)
  14. ^ Perlstein, Rick (2008). Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. Simon and Schuster. ISBN 978-0-7432-4302-5.; Rosenof (2003); Shafer (1991)
  15. ^ Perlstein, Nixonland (2008);
  16. ^ Kleppner (1981)
  17. ^ Loughlin, Sean (July 6, 2004). "Reagan cast a wide shadow in politics". CNN. Retrieved October 15, 2016.
  18. ^ Troy, Gil. "The Age of Reagan | The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History". Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  19. ^ a b Page, Susan (June 6, 2004). " - Reagan's political force realigned political landscape". Retrieved June 29, 2016.
  20. ^ Rosenof (2003); Schafer (1991)
  21. ^ Abramowitz and Saunders (1998)
  22. ^ Krugman, Paul. The Conscience of a Liberal. New York City; W. W. Norton, 2007. Print.
  23. ^ "Morning Joe". MSNBC. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  24. ^ "Opinion: despite 'autopsy,' GOP could have revival in 2014". Politico. April 7, 2013. Retrieved May 22, 2013.
  25. ^ Ruth Murray Brown, For a Christian America: A History of the Religious Right (2002)
  26. ^ Peter Applebome (11 November 1994). "THE 1994 ELECTIONS: THE SOUTH; The Rising G.O.P. Tide Overwhelms the Democratic Levees in the South". New York Times. Retrieved 22 September 2014.
  27. ^ "Obama in Reagan's shadow". The Week. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  28. ^ "End Times for Reaganism". The Week. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  29. ^ Nichols, John (November 9, 2012). "Obama's 3 Million Vote, Electoral College Landslide, Majority of States Mandate". The Nation. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  30. ^ Zeleny, Jeff; Rutenberg, Jim (November 6, 2012). "Divided U.S. Gives Obama More Time". The New York Times. Retrieved November 18, 2012.
  31. ^ Pierog, Karen. "Republicans gain big in state legislative elections | Reuters". Reuters. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  32. ^ "Nearly half of Americans will now live in states under total GOP control". The Washington Post. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  33. ^ "The Other GOP Wave: State Legislatures &#124". RealClearPolitics. Retrieved November 20, 2014.
  34. ^ Boehm, Eric. "Democrats Got Wrecked Again in State Legislative Races, and it Matters More Than You Might Think". Reason. Retrieved 12 August 2018.
  35. ^ Ray Argyle, Turning Points: The Campaigns That Changed Canada - 2011 and Before (2011) excerpt and text search 441pp
  36. ^ Behiels cites Tom Flanaganm Harpers Team: Behind the Scenes in the Conservative Rise to Power (2nd ed. McGill-Queens U.P. 2009); Chantal Hébert, French Kiss: Stephen Harpers Blind Date with Quebec (Knopf Canada, 2007); William Johnson, Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada (2nd ed. McClelland & Stewart, 2006); Lloyd Mackay, Stephen Harper: The Case for Collaborative Governance (ECW Press, 2006); Bob Plamondon, Full Circle: Death and Resurrection in Canadian Conservative Politics (Key Porter Books, 2006); and Paul Wells, Right Side Up: The Fall of Paul Martin and the Rise of Stephen Harpers New Conservatism (Douglas Gibson Books, 2007)
  37. ^ Michael D. Behiels, "Stephen Harper's Rise to Power: Will His 'New' Conservative Party Become Canada's 'Natural Governing Party' of the Twenty-First Century?," American Review of Canadian Studies Vol. 40, No. 1, March 2010, 118–145
  38. ^ Alan Bloomfield and Kim Richard Nossal, "Towards an Explicative Understanding of Strategic Culture: The Cases of Australia and Canada", Contemporary Security Policy, (2007) 28:2, 286 - 307 online
  39. ^ Alain-G. Gagnon, and A. Brain Tanguay, Canadian Parties in Transition (3rd ed. 2007)
  40. ^ Steve Patten, "The Evolution of the Canadian Party System". in Gagnon, and Tanguay, eds. Canadian Parties in Transition pp. 57–58
  41. ^ Stephen Clarkson, The Big Red Machine: How the Liberal Party Dominates Canadian Politics (2005)
  42. ^ Ray Argyle, Turning Points: The Campaigns That Changed Canada - 2011 and Before (2011) excerpt and text search ch 4
  43. ^ a b c "Scott Stinson: Redefining the Liberals not a quick process | Full Comment | National Post". 2011-05-06. Archived from the original on 2012-07-14. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  44. ^ a b "Conrad Black: The full measure of Harper's triumph | Full Comment | National Post". Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  45. ^ Wells, Paul (2011-05-04). "The untold story of the 2011 election: Introduction and Chapter 1 - Paul Wells". Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  46. ^ "CBC News In Depth: Reality Check - John Gray". 2006-06-13. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  47. ^ William Johnson, Stephen Harper and the Future of Canada (2006) pp 117–19
  48. ^ Ray Argyle, Turning Points: The Campaigns That Changed Canada - 2011 and Before (2011) excerpt and text search ch 1
  49. ^ Howard Cody and Jamie Gillies. "The Canadian Party System and the Leadership of Stephen Harper." The New England Journal of Political Science 8.1 (2015): 2+.
  50. ^ "Rob Ford's approval rating at 70%: poll | Posted Toronto | National Post". 2011-05-05. Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  51. ^ "This page is available to GlobePlus subscribers". Retrieved 2012-03-07.
  52. ^ Economist May 3, 2011
  53. ^ Lawrence Martin, "Harper's triumph: a realignment of historic proportions, Globe and Mail May 4, 2011
  54. ^ Andrew Coyne, "The West is in and Ontario has joined it: How the election led to an unprecedented realignment of Canadian politics." Maclean's May 6 2011
  55. ^ Jon H. Pammett and Christopher Dornan, eds., The Canadian Federal Election of 2015 (Dundurn, 2016).
  56. ^ James P. Allan, and Richard Vengroff. "Party System Change in Québec: Evidence from Recent Elections." Southern Journal of Canadian Studies 6.1 (2015): 2-20.
  57. ^ Danner, Chas (23 April 2017). "What Pundits Are Saying About the Next Phase of the French Election". New York Magazine. Retrieved 24 April 2017.
  58. ^ "Election 2017: how the UK voted in 7 charts". Financial Times. 9 June 2017. Retrieved 7 July 2017.
  59. ^ Missing or empty |title= (help)

Further reading

  • Wagner, Matthew L., and Paul White Jr. Parties and Democratic Transitions: The Decline of Dominant and Hegemonic Parties (2014).


  • Heppell, Tim. "The conservative party leadership of David Cameron: Heresthetics and the realignment of British Politics." British Politics 8#3 (2013): 260–284.
  • Hutcheson, Derek S. "The Seismology Of Psephology: 'Earthquake Elections' From The Folketing To The Dáil." Representation 47#4 (2011): 471–488.
  • Keil, Silke, and Oscar Gabriel. "The Baden-Württemberg State Election of 2011: A Political Landslide." German Politics 21.2 (2012): 239–246.
  • White, Timothy J. "The 2011 Irish General Election: Critical, Realigning, Deviating, or Something Else?." Irish Journal of Public Policy 3.2 (2011).


  • Johnston, Richard. "Alignment, Realignment, and Dealignment in Canada: The View From Above." Canadian Journal of Political Science 46.02 (2013): 245–271.
  • Koop, Royce, and Amanda Bittner. "Parties and Elections after 2011 The Fifth Canadian Party System?." Parties, Elections, and the Future of Canadian Politics' (2013): 308+
  • LeDuc, Lawrence. "The federal election in Canada, May 2011." Electoral Studies 31.1 (2012): 239–242.

United States

  • Abramowitz, Alan I. and Kyle L. Saunders. 1998. "Ideological Realignment in the US Electorate." Journal of Politics 60(3):634–652.
  • Aldrich, John H. 1995. Why Parties? The Origin and Transformation of Party Politics in America. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Aldrich, John H. 2000. "Southern Politics in State and Nation." Journal of Politics 62: 643–670.
  • Bullock, Charles S. III, Donna R. Hoffman and Ronald Keith Gaddie, "Regional Variations in the Realignment of American Politics, 1944–2004," Social Science Quarterly v 87#3 (Sept 2006) pp 494+; Finds both critical and secular realignments at work with different patterns in each region since 1944. Stresses the collapse of Republican hegemony in the Northeast and Pacific West. 1994 election was a realigning election.
  • Burnham, Walter Dean. Critical elections and the mainsprings of American politics (1970) (ISBN 0-393-09962-8)
  • Burnham, Walter Dean. "Periodization Schemes and 'Party Systems': The 'System of 1896' as a Case in Point," Social Science History, Vol. 10, No. 3, (Autumn, 1986), pp. 263–314. in JSTOR
  • Chambers, William Nisbet, and Walter Dean Burnham, eds. American Party Systems: Stages of Political Development (1968) (ISBN 0-19-631662-6)
  • Carmines, Edward G., and James A. Stimson. 1989. Issue Evolution: Race and the Transformation of American Politics. (ISBN 0-691-07802-5)
  • Clubb, Jerome M., William H. Flanigan, Nancy H. Zingale. Partisan Realignment: Voters, Parties, and Government in American History (1990)
  • Cunningham, Sean P. Cowboy Conservatism: Texas and the Rise of the Modern Right (2010)
  • Gerring, John. Party Ideologies in America, 1828–1996 1998. (ISBN 0-521-78590-1)
  • Gienap, William E. The Origins of the Republican Party, 1852–1856 1987. (ISBN 0-19-505501-2)
  • Holt, Michael F. "The New Political History and the Civil War Era," Reviews in American History, Vol. 13, No. 1 (Mar., 1985), pp. 60–69 in JSTOR</
  • Jensen, Richard J.. Grass Roots Politics: Parties, Issues, and Voters, 1854–1983. Westport: Greenwood, 1983. (ISBN 0-8371-6382-X)
  • Jensen, Richard. The Winning of the Midwest: Social and Political Conflict, 1888–1896 1971. (ISBN 0-226-39825-0)
  • Jenkins, Shannon, Douglas D. Roscoe, John P. Frendreis, and Alan R. Gitelson. 2006. "Ten Years After the Revolution: 1994 and Partisan Control of Government" in Green and Coffey, The State of the Parties, 5th ed. (ISBN 0-7425-5322-1)
  • Key, V.O. "A Theory of Critical Elections." The Journal of Politics, 1955. 17: 3–18.
  • Kleppner, Paul ed. Evolution of American Electoral Systems (1981) (ISBN 0-313-21379-8)
  • Ladd Jr., Everett Carll with Charles D. Hadley. Transformations of the American Party System: Political Coalitions from the New Deal to the 1970s 2d ed. (1978). (ISBN 0-393-09065-5)
  • Lichtman, Allan J. "Critical elections theory and the reality of American presidential politics, 1916–40." American Historical Review (1976) 81: 317–348. in JSTOR
  • Lichtman, Allan J. "Political Realignment and 'Ethnocultural' Voting in Late Nineteenth Century America," Journal of Social History, Vol. 16, No. 3 (Spring, 1983), pp. 55–82 in JSTOR
  • Manza, Jeff and Clem Brooks; Social Cleavages and Political Change: Voter Alignments and U.S. Party Coalitions, Oxford University Press, 1999 (ISBN 0-19-829492-1)
  • McCormick, Richard P. The Second American Party System: Party Formation in the Jacksonian Era 1966. (ISBN 0-393-00680-8)
  • Maisel, L. Sandy, ed. Political Parties and Elections in the United States: An Encyclopedia. 1991. (ISBN 0-8240-7975-2)
  • Mayhew, David R. Electoral Realignments: A Critique of an American Genre. 2004. (ISBN 0-300-09336-5)
  • Paulson, Arthur. Electoral Realignment and the Outlook for American Democracy (2006) (ISBN 1-55553-667-0)
  • Rosenof, Theodore. Realignment: The Theory That Changed the Way We Think about American Politics (2003) (ISBN 0-7425-3105-8)
  • Rapoport, Ronald and Walter Stone. 2005. Three's a Crowd: The Dynamic of Third Parties, Ross Perot, and Republican Resurgence. (ISBN 0-472-11453-0)
  • Saunders, Kyle L. and Alan I. Abramowitz. 2004. "Ideological Realignment and Active Partisans in the American Electorate." American Politics Research 32(3):285–309.
  • Schafer, Byron (ed.). 1991. "Critical realignment: Dead or alive?" in The End of Realignment (University of Wisconsin Press)
  • Schlozman, Daniel. When Movements Anchor Parties: Electoral Alignments in American History (Princeton University Press, 2015) xiv, 267 pp.
  • Shafer, Byron E. and Anthony J. Badger, eds. Contesting Democracy: Substance and Structure in American Political History, 1775–2000 (2001) (ISBN 0-7006-1139-8)
  • Sternsher, Bernard. "The New Deal Party System: A Reappraisal," Journal of Interdisciplinary History v.15#1 (Summer, 1984), pp. 53–81 JSTOR
  • Silbey, Joel. The American Political Nation, 1838–1893. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1991. (ISBN 0-8047-2338-9)
  • Sundquist, James L. Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States (1983) online

External links

1800 United States elections

The 1800 United States elections elected the members of the 7th United States Congress. The election took place during the First Party System, and is generally considered the first realigning election in American history. Perhaps most significantly, this election was the first peaceful transfer of power between parties in American history. The Democratic-Republican Party won control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress for the first time. Conversely, the Federalist Party would never again control the Presidency or either house of Congress. Ohio was admitted as a state during the 7th Congress.

In the Presidential election, Democratic-Republican Vice President Thomas Jefferson became the first Democratic-Republican President, narrowly defeating incumbent Federalist President John Adams. Jefferson again won the South and Adams again won New England, but Jefferson won by adding New York and Maryland. Jefferson tied his own running mate, former Senator Aaron Burr of New York, in electoral votes, necessitating a contingent election in the House that Jefferson won. Burr, as the runner-up, was elected vice president. The contingent election led to the passage of the 12th Amendment, which altered the electoral college so that electors in all future elections cast an electoral vote for president and a separate electoral vote for vice president.

In the House, Democratic-Republicans won major gains, taking control of the chamber.In the Senate, Democratic-Republicans picked up several seats, taking control of the chamber for the first time in the party's history.

1824 United States presidential election in Missouri

This article describes the United States presidential election, 1824, in Missouri.

Missouri has been voting in presidential elections since 1820.

The United States presidential election, 1824 was a complex realigning election following the collapse of the prevailing Democratic-Republican Party, resulting in four different candidates each claiming to carry the banner of the party, and competing for influence in different parts of the country. The election was the only one in history to be decided by the House of Representatives under the provisions of the Twelfth Amendment to the United States Constitution after no candidate secured a majority of the electoral vote. It was also the only presidential election in which the candidate who received a plurality of electoral votes (Andrew Jackson) did not become President, a source of great bitterness for Jackson and his supporters, who proclaimed the election of Adams a corrupt bargain.

Voters chose three representatives, or electors to the Electoral College, who voted for President and Vice President. Missouri voted for the Democratic-Republican candidate, Henry Clay.

Statewide winner in bold.

1828 United States elections

The 1828 United States elections elected the members of the 21st United States Congress. It marked the beginning of the Second Party System, and the definitive split of the Democratic-Republican Party into the Democratic Party (organized around Andrew Jackson) and the National Republican Party (organized around John Quincy Adams and opponents of Jackson). While the Democrats cultivated strong local organizations, the National Republicans relied on a clear national platform of high tariffs and internal improvements. Political scientists such as V.O. Key, Jr. consider this election to be a realigning election, while political scientists such as James Reichley instead see the election as a continuation of the Democratic-Republican tradition. Additionally, this election saw the Anti-Masonic Party win a small number of seats in the House, becoming the first third party to gain representation in Congress.

In a re-match of the 1824 Presidential election, Democratic General Andrew Jackson won a large victory over incumbent National Republican President John Quincy Adams. Adams again won New England, but Jackson took most of the rest of the country. Jackson was the first successful presidential candidate who had not served as secretary of state or vice president in the preceding administration (aside from George Washington). Adams was the first President to lose re-election since his father, John Adams, lost re-election in 1800. John C. Calhoun was re-elected vice president, making him the second and last vice president to serve under two different presidents. Jackson's election as president marked the start of Jacksonian democracy, and an ongoing expansion in right to vote saw a dramatic increase in the size of the electorate.In the House, Democrats won several seats, increasing their majority. The Anti-Masonic Party won a small number of seats, gaining representation in Congress for the first time.In the Senate, opponents of Jackson won minor gains, but Democrats retained control of the chamber.

1860 United States elections

The 1860 United States elections elected the members of the 37th United States Congress. The election took place during the Third Party System, shortly before the start of the Civil War. The Republican Party won control of the Presidency and both houses of Congress, making it the fifth party (following the Federalist Party, Democratic-Republican Party, Democratic Party, and Whig Party) to accomplish that feat. The election is widely considered to be a realigning election.In the Presidential election, Republican former Representative Abraham Lincoln of Illinois defeated Democratic Vice President John C. Breckinridge (who became the first incumbent Vice President to lose a presidential election) and Democratic Senator Stephen A. Douglas of Illinois, as well as the Constitutional Union candidate, former Senator John Bell of Tennessee. Lincoln swept the Northern states while Breckinridge carried much of the South, foreshadowing the political alignment of the country throughout the Third Party System. At the 1860 Republican National Convention, Lincoln won on third ballot, defeating Senator William H. Seward of New York and several other candidates. The Democratic Party split its votes after three chaotic conventions. Douglas was nominated at the second Democratic convention, while the Southern Democrats nominated Breckinridge as their own candidate in a third convention. Bell ran on a platform of preserving the union regardless of the status of slavery. Lincoln's victory made him the first Republican President. Lincoln took just under 40 percent of the popular vote, a lower share of the popular vote than any other winning presidential candidate aside from John Quincy Adams's 1824 campaign.

In the House, Republicans retained control of the chamber and won a majority for the first time after several states seceded. Democrats remained the largest minority, but several Congressmen also identified as unionists.In the Senate, Republicans made moderate gains, but Democrats initially retained a majority. They lost that majority shortly after the election when several Southern senators resigned. The Democrats would have the second-largest number of members in the Senate, although many senators identified as unionists rather than Democrats or Republicans.

1894 United States elections

The 1894 United States elections was held on November 6, and elected the members of the 54th United States Congress. These were mid-term elections during Democratic President Grover Cleveland's second term. The Republican landslide of 1894 marked a realigning election In American politics as the nation moved from the Third Party System that had focused on issues of civil war and reconstruction, and entered the Fourth Party System, known as the Progressive Era, which focused on middle class reforms.The Democrats suffered a landslide defeat in the House losing over 100 seats to the Republicans in the single largest swing in the history of the House. The Democrats also lost four seats in the Senate, thus resulting in the President's party completely losing control of both houses of Congress, the first time this ever happened in a midterm election.

The Democratic Party losses can be traced largely to the Panic of 1893 and the ineffective party leadership of Cleveland. Republicans effectively used the issues of the tariff, bimetallism, and the Cuban War of Independence against Cleveland. The Democrats suffered huge defeats outside the South (almost ninety percent of Northeastern and Midwestern House Democrats lost re-election), and the Democratic Party underwent a major turnover in party leadership. With the defeat of many Bourbon Democrats, William Jennings Bryan took the party in a more populist direction starting with the 1896 elections.

1896 United States elections

The 1896 United States elections elected the 55th United States Congress. Republicans won control of the Presidency and maintained control of both houses of Congress. The election marked the end of the Third Party System and the start of the Fourth Party System, as Republicans would generally dominate politics until the 1930 elections. Political scientists such as V.O. Key, Jr. argue that this election was a realigning election, while James Reichley argues against this idea on the basis that the Republican victory in this election merely continued the party's post-Civil War dominance. The election took place in the aftermath of the Panic of 1893, and featured a fierce debate between advocates of bimetallism ("free silver") and supporters of the gold standard.In the Presidential election, Republican former Governor William McKinley of Ohio defeated Democratic former Representative William Jennings Bryan of Nebraska. McKinley took the Republican nomination on the first ballot, while Bryan took the Democratic nomination on the fifth ballot (at age 36, he became youngest presidential nominee of a major party), defeating former Missouri Representative Richard P. Bland and several other candidates. Bryan's Cross of Gold speech, in which he advocated for "free silver," helped deliver him the Democratic nomination, and also attracted the support of the Populist Party and the Silver Republican Party. Though Bryan carried most of the South and the West, McKinley won a comfortable margin in both the electoral college and the popular vote by carrying the Northeast and the Great Lakes region.

Democrats won major gains in the House, but Republicans continued to command a large majority in the chamber. The Populists also won several seats, holding more seats in the House than any third party since the Civil War.In the Senate, the Republicans maintained their plurality, keeping control of the same number of seats. The Democrats lost several seats, while the Silver Republicans established themselves for the first time with five seats. Republican William P. Frye won election as President pro tempore.

1922 United Kingdom general election

The 1922 United Kingdom general election was held on Wednesday 15 November 1922. It was the first general election held after most of Ireland left the United Kingdom to form the Irish Free State, and was won by the Conservatives led by Andrew Bonar Law, who gained an overall majority over Labour, led by J. R. Clynes, and a divided Liberal Party.

This election is considered a realigning election, with the Conservative Party going on to spend all but eight (comprising the second Labour government of Ramsay MacDonald, and Clement Attlee's six years as Prime Minister) of the next forty-two years as the largest party in Parliament, Labour emerging as the main competition to the Conservatives, and the Liberal Party falling to third-party status, never to return.

1924 South African general election

The 1924 South African general election was a realigning election in the Union of South Africa's House of Assembly held on 19 June 1924 to elect 135 members. Rising discontent with the government of Jan Smuts led to the defeat of his government by a coalition of the pro-Afrikaner National Party and the South African Labour Party, a socialist party representing the interests of the white proletariat.

Smuts had angered South African nationalists by his moderate stance on South African independence from the British Empire. The worldwide depression after the end of the First World War had led to a strike in South Africa, known as the Rand Rebellion, which had been defused through a combination of military force and negotiation with the outgunned unions, earning Smuts the enmity of the labour vote. As a consequence Smuts's SAP was defeated by a Nationalist–Labour Pact, James Hertzog formed the government and became prime minister – a position he was to hold until 1939.

1932 United States elections

The 1932 United States elections was held on November 8, during the Great Depression. The presidential election coincided with U.S. Senate, U.S. House, and gubernatorial elections in several states. The election marked the end of the Fourth Party System and the start of the Fifth Party System. The election is widely considered to be a realigning election, and the newly established Democratic New Deal coalition experienced much more success than their predecessors had in the Fourth Party System.Democratic New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt defeated Republican incumbent President Herbert Hoover. Roosevelt won in a landslide, and Hoover only won six Northeastern states. Roosevelt's victory was the first by a Democratic candidate since Woodrow Wilson won re-election in 1916. Roosevelt took his party's nomination on the fourth ballot, defeating 1928 nominee Al Smith and Speaker of the House John Nance Garner.

The Republicans suffered massive defeats in both congressional chambers with many seats switching to Democratic control. Democrats gained ninety-seven seats in the House of Representatives, increasing their majority over the Republicans (and achieving a House supermajority). The Democrats also took control of the Senate, gaining twelve seats from the Republicans. Republicans had controlled the chamber since their electoral success in 1918.The election took place after the 1930 United States Census and the subsequent Congressional re-apportionment. The Reapportionment Act of 1929 provided a permanent method of apportioning 435 House seats; previously, Congress had had to pass apportionment legislation after each census.

1932 United States presidential election in Minnesota

The 1932 United States presidential election in Minnesota took place on November 8, 1932, in Minnesota as part of the 1932 United States presidential election.

The Democratic candidate, New York governor Franklin D. Roosevelt won the state over incumbent President Herbert Hoover by a margin of 236,847 votes, or 23.62%. Nationally, Roosevelt won the election, with 472 electoral votes and a landslide 17.76% lead over Hoover in the popular vote.

The election of 1932, the first held since the Wall Street Crash of 1929, was a realigning election which marked the effective end of the Republican-dominated Fourth Party System, and the beginning of the Fifth Party System, which led to the dominance of the New Deal Coalition in presidential politics until 1968. In Minnesota, a state in which Republicans had always previously been dominant, early warning of the Republicans' poor prospects for 1932 was given in the 1930 gubernatorial election, in which Farmer-Labor candidate Floyd B. Olson won the governorship by a landslide margin. Throughout most of the 1930s, Roosevelt would dominate presidential politics in Minnesota, while Olson and the Farmer-Laborites tended to dominate state politics. The eventual cooperation between the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party and the Democratic Party, fostered by Olson and Roosevelt, would lead to the establishment of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party in 1944.

This is also the first time Minnesota voted for the Democrats in a presidential election since it gained statehood in 1858, and only the second time it did not support the Republican candidate, after 1912, and would vote for the Democratic candidates every time after, except the presidential elections of 1952, 1956, and 1972. As of the 2016 presidential election, this is the last election in which Lake County voted for a Republican Presidential candidate (incidentally it was the only county to vote Republican in this election) and the last election in which Carver County and Otter Tail County voted for a Democratic candidate.

1933 Pittsburgh mayoral election

The Mayoral election of 1933 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania was held on Tuesday, November 6, 1933. In a realigning election, Democrats regained control of the mayor's office for the first time in 28 years; they have not relinquished this position since. The incumbent mayor, John Herron of the Republican Party chose to run for his first full term. Herron had been elevated to the executive office from his position as city council president after Charles H. Kline resigned over a fiscal scandal; he inherited a party whose once efficient machinery was in crisis. Democrats, led by new powerful grassroots organizer David Lawrence (a future mayor) selected William McNair, an idealistic and outspoken attorney as their candidate. With the beginnings of the New Deal being set into place, Pittsburgh's strong labor community moved rapidly toward the Democrats, creating a huge shift in voting patterns and allowing McNair to win.

1945 Luxembourg general election

General elections were held in Luxembourg on 21 October 1945. They were the first elections held after the German occupation during World War II. As a result of the war, the political alliances of the interwar period had been ended. In their place were new parties; the Christian Social People's Party, the Luxembourg Socialist Workers' Party, and the Patriotic and Democratic Group in place of the Party of the Right, Socialist Party, and Radical Liberal Party respectively. It is regarded as a realigning election, as the election established the party political order, with four established parties, that would be maintained until 1974.

The conservatives remained the dominant faction, and the Christian Social People's Party's leader, Pierre Dupong, was invited to head another government. The election was also a success for both liberal and communist candidates, with both the Patriotic and Democratic Group and the Communist Party gaining four more seats than in the last election before the war. To restore political stability, Grand Duchess Charlotte asked Dupong to create a more broad-based coalition than the preceding Liberation Government. The resulting National Union Government would embrace all four political parties, and also include the solitary independent, guaranteeing the support of the whole Chamber of Deputies. The government remained in place until 1947.

1954 Pennsylvania gubernatorial election

The Pennsylvania gubernatorial election of 1954 was held on November 2. In what is considered a crucial realigning election for the state, Democratic State Senator George Leader defeated Republican incumbent Lieutenant Governor Lloyd Wood by a surprisingly large margin.

1971 Alberta general election

The Alberta general election of 1971 was the seventeenth general election in the Province of Alberta, Canada. It was held on August 30, 1971, to elect members of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta.

The Progressive Conservative Party, led by Peter Lougheed, won a large majority, thereby ending the Social Credit Party's thirty-six years of government. Ernest C. Manning had resigned as Social Credit leader and premier in 1968, a year after leading the Socreds to their ninth consecutive majority government. His successor, Harry E. Strom, had been unable to revive a government increasingly seen as tired, complacent and old-fashioined. The Socreds had been in government for almost two generations, having won their first victory more than a decade before oil was found in a big way in Alberta.

The Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand, had significant momentum going into the 1971 election. Over the past four years, their caucus had increased from the six members elected in 1967 to ten, after two MLAs from other parties crossed the floor and the Tories won two by-elections (one in Manning's former riding). The collapse of the other opposition parties made the PCs the only credible challenger to the Socreds. The Tories took 46% of the popular vote and won 49 of the 75 seats in the legislature, enough for a strong majority government. This would be the first of twelve consecutive victories for the PCs; they would remain in government without interruption until their defeat in 2015, making them the longest serving political dynasty in Canadian history. The 1971 election is considered a classic example of a realigning election.

Social Credit garnered a record number of votes in this election compared to previous elections, which had been plagued by low turn-outs. The party lost only a small share of their popular vote from 1967 and finished only five points behind the Tories. However, the Tories converted this slim lead into a large lead in seats due to their success in the province's two largest cities: Edmonton, where the Tories won every seat, and Calgary, where they took all but five. While many of the Social Credit losses came by small margins, those losses were enough to cost the party almost half of its caucus. Strom resigned as Social Credit leader a few months after the defeat.

The defeat sent Social Credit into headlong decline. Its membership in the Assembly shrank over the next ten years and disappeared altogether by 1982.

The Liberal Party was shut out of the legislature. One Liberal, Bill Dickie, had crossed the floor to the PCs. Another, William Switzer, died in 1969. The remaining Liberal, Michael Maccagno, resigned to run, unsuccessfully as it turned out, for the federal Parliament.

Alberta New Democratic Party leader Grant Notley was the only one in his party to win election. He sat as the only New Democrat in the legislature until 1982. His daughter Rachel would lead the NDP to victory over the Tories in 2015, ending its 44 years in office.

1986 Alabama gubernatorial election

The 1986 Alabama gubernatorial election saw the election of Republican H. Guy Hunt over Democrat Bill Baxley. In state politics, this election is largely seen as a realigning election since Hunt was the first Republican to be elected Governor since Reconstruction. In March 1986, incumbent George Wallace announced that he would not seek a fifth term as governor, ending an era in Alabama politics.

Though Alabama had supported Republicans in national elections, state and local elections were dominated by Democrats so many people anticipated that the winner of the Democratic primary would win the election.

1998 Venezuelan presidential election

The 1998 Venezuelan presidential election was held on 6 December 1998. The main candidates were Hugo Chávez, a career military officer who led a coup d'état against then-president Carlos Andrés Pérez in 1992; and former Carabobo Governor Henrique Salas Römer. Both candidates represented newly formed parties, a first in a country where the main candidates always represented the parties of the Punto Fijo Pact. Chávez represented MVR, while Salas Römer represented Project Venezuela. Initially weak in the polls, Chávez ran on an anti-corruption and anti-poverty platform, condemning the two major parties that had dominated Venezuelan politics since 1958; and began to gain ground in the polls after the previous front runners faded. Despite the fact that the major parties (COPEI and Democratic Action) endorsed Salas Römer, Chávez was elected into his first term as President of Venezuela.

Arguably a realigning election, it meant the end of the Puntofijismo that had dominated the political atmosphere of the country in the last 40 years, and the beginning of the dominance of the new MVR party (later renamed PSUV).

List of third party performances in United States presidential elections

This is a list of third party performances in United States presidential elections.

In the United States it is rare for third party and independent candidates, other than those of the six parties which have succeeded as major parties (Federalist Party, Democratic-Republican Party, National Republican Party, Democratic Party, Whig Party, Republican Party), to take large shares of the vote in elections, unless in a realigning election.

Occasionally, a third party becomes one of the two major parties through a presidential election (the last time it happened was in 1856, when the Republicans supplanted the Whigs, who had withered and endorsed the ticket of the American Party): such an election is called a realigning election, as it causes a realignment in the party system; according to scholars, there have been six party systems so far. Only once one of the two major parties came third in an election, but that did not cause a realignment (in 1912 the Progressive Party surpassed the Republicans, but the party quickly disappeared and the Republicans re-gained their major party status).

In the 58 presidential elections since 1788, third party or independent candidates have won at least 5.0% of the vote or garnered electoral votes 12 times (21%); this does not count George Washington, who was elected as an independent in 1788–1789 and 1792, but who largely supported Federalist policies and was supported by Federalists. The last third party candidate to win a state was George Wallace of the American Independent Party in 1968, while the last third party candidate to win more than 5.0% of the vote was Ross Perot, who ran as an independent and as the standard-bearer of the Reform Party in 1992 and 1996, respectively; the closest since was Gary Johnson in 2016, who gained 3.3% of the vote running as the Libertarian nominee. The most recent third party candidates to receive an electoral vote were Libertarian Ron Paul and Yankton Sioux Nation independent Faith Spotted Eagle who received a vote each from faithless electors in 2016.

Panic of 1893

The Panic of 1893 was a serious economic depression in the United States that began in 1893 and ended in 1897. It deeply affected every sector of the economy, and produced political upheaval that led to the realigning election of 1896 and the presidency of William McKinley.


Surrey-Newton is a provincial electoral district for the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia, Canada.

The riding was first created out of the two-member Surrey district in 1986, which had been in existence since 1966. Surrey had always been a battleground between the NDP and Social Credit, trading back and forth between the two parties. The riding was represented by Premier Rita Johnston, who was a prominent Cabinet minister in the Vander Zalm government between 1986 and 1991.

In 1991, Penny Priddy defeated the sitting Premier in a realigning election that saw Social Credit experience massive defeats all across the province. During the NDP government (1991-2001), Priddy emerged as a prominent Cabinet minister in portfolios such as Women's Equality, Tourism and Culture, Health, Labour and Children and Families.

Although the riding was won by the Liberals during their 2001 landslide victory, it has been a relatively safe NDP seat since 2005. The riding is home to a large South Asian community, whose population has exploded in Surrey since the early 1990s. The shift towards the NDP can largely be attributed to the party's inroads in the Indo-Canadian community.

This page is based on a Wikipedia article written by authors (here).
Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 license; additional terms may apply.
Images, videos and audio are available under their respective licenses.