A new measure for party coherence: Applying a physics-based concept to the Swiss party system

Christen, Markus; Ott, Thomas; Schwarz, Daniel (2013). A new measure for party coherence: Applying a physics-based concept to the Swiss party system. Advances in complex systems, 16(6), p. 1350011. World Scientific Pub. Co. 10.1142/S0219525913500112

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The paper revives a theoretical definition of party coherence as being composed of two basic elements, cohesion and factionalism, to propose and apply a novel empirical measure based on spin physics. The simultaneous analysis of both components using a single measurement concept is applied to data representing the political beliefs of candidates in the Swiss general elections of 2003 and 2007, proposing a connection between the coherence of the beliefs party members hold and the assessment of parties being at risk of splitting. We also compare our measure with established polarization measures and demonstrate its advantage with respect to multi-dimensional data that lack clear structure. Furthermore, we outline how our analysis supports the distinction between bottom-up and top-down mechanisms of party splitting. In this way, we are able to turn the intuition of coherence into a defined quantitative concept that, additionally, offers a methodological basis for comparative research of party coherence. Our work serves as an example of how a complex systems approach allows to get a new perspective on a long-standing issue in political science.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


11 Centers of Competence > KPM Center for Public Management

UniBE Contributor:

Schwarz, Daniel


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 350 Public administration & military science
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science
500 Science > 510 Mathematics




World Scientific Pub. Co.




Daniel Schwarz Badertscher

Date Deposited:

03 Dec 2015 11:55

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:50

Publisher DOI:




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