Democratic parties confirms this, displaying a disproportionate prevalence of middle-class leaders,compared to both party voters and party members. Marsh attributes this to the increasingcomplexity of political issues, increasing professionalism and social changes in the population(Marsh 1980). The evidence thus seems to suggest a second conclusion; the social stratification of the party membership tends to increase the further up in party hierarchy we venture.
Does it matter if party elites are different from party voters?
More important than social representativeness might be the presence of ideological representationof party voters. If one contends, as is claimed by some authors, that social characteristics are perfectly ideologically deterministic this section does not merit the reader's attention. Ideologicalrepresentation will simply be equal to the outcomes of social representation. This view takes theopinion that early childhood socialization creates frameworks of stable values which can be used to predict preferences and is consistent with the Michigan school of voter choice. The consequence of unequal social representation will in this view be policy outcomes that approximate the preferencesof the represented; well-educated, older, male and middle-class. This view is theoretically contested,however, and in the words of Mills
“we cannot infer the direction of policy merely from the social origins and careers of policy makers”
(quote Mills in Putnam 1995:42). Norris and Lovenduskiempirically investigates this controversy using data for British MPs and find that most measures of social class fail to have a substantive impact and that
“the occupational class of politicians was not strongly associated with their social values, policy priorities, or legislative roles”
(Norris andLovenduski 1995: 224). Likewise they conclude that in the British case the impact of race seems to be limited (although so is the sample). On the other hand, gender is found to be statisticallysignificant on all three dimensions; although party-belonging proved by far the most important predictor of values and policy priorities. Marsh investigates the impact of middle-class leaders onSocial Democratic parties and find that
“interest representation is unrelated to social representation”
(Marsh 1980:66) and Widfeldt claims that “
a party's degree of social representativeness says little of its opinion representativeness and vice versa”
(Widfeldt 1995:171)this stance is also confirmed for German parties over history by Beyme (Beyme 1982).The evidence is thus mixed on the issue of the convergence between social and ideologicalrepresentativeness. We may conclude, however, that social characteristics is not perfectly correlatedwith ideological representation. The point must be made though that even in the hypothetical presence of perfect ideological representation there is reason to believe that social representation isstill important. Social representation is related to the legitimacy of parties
“it is scarcely debatablethat agglutination is a prima facie violation of justice and equality of opportunity”