My dissertation, Interest Group Strategies and Party Position Change: The Case of Canadian Social Conservatives, is a book project that traces the development of political cleavages on abortion and LGBT rights from the 1960s until today. Existing work points to cross-country differences in public opinion to explain why it took longer for partisan conflict on these issues to emerge in Canada than in the US. Through extensive primary source work, I argue instead for an organizational explanation. I show that interest groups’ strategic decisions were key catalysts: when some socially conservative groups became disheartened with traditional lobbying and began to work more within party politics, they began a chain of events that resulted in party position change. From this case, I develop a more general theory of the relationship between interest group strategies and party position change. This work contributes to scholarly debates about party-group interactions, polarization, and interest group politics.
This project also contributes to our understanding of Canadian politics by documenting and explaining a significant development – that is, the transformation of Canada’s brokerage parties into more ideologically distinct parties. I show that small, overlooked organizations of social conservatives and their opponents are essential to understanding when and how Canadian political parties have polarized on issues of gender and sexuality. This work speaks to the underappreciated role of interest groups in Canadian politics, including in party politics. I expand the study of interest groups from traditional lobbying by providing the first systematic, over-time study of interest group involvement in Canadian federal nominations, leadership races, and party policy conventions.I also contribute both substantively and methodologically to an emerging field of Canadian political development.
This research received support from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, Princeton’s Fund for Canadian Studies, and Princeton’s Center for the Study of Religion.