Political (Party) Platform

… a core concept used in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101

Concept description

The Dictionary of American History defines a party platform as “a political party’s statement of governmental principle and policy.”

The Oxford Living Dictionary’s definition of a party platform (“a manifesto; the issues on which a political party fights an election”) is slightly narrower, focusing on the statement at the time of election.

Thomas Mann (2000, reference below) argues that party platforms, at least in US presidential contests, are more important than one might think. He writes:

“Are party platforms of any real consequence in campaigning and governing?

“The absence of platform fireworks at both party conventions this year suggests that the answer is clearly no. …

“But this should not obscure the larger reality that party platforms matter in several important respects:

  • They are crucial tests of a presidential nominee’s ability to control the platform-writing process and to put his distinctive mark on the party’s message to the electorate.
  • As explicit statements of political philosophies and issue positions, the platforms make clear that there is substantially more than a dime’s worth of difference between the two major parties.
  • And platforms provide a remarkably accurate guide to what a presidential ticket and political party will pursue in office.

“And as political scientists have discovered from research on party platforms and policymaking over the past half-century, the vast majority of platform promises eventually are adopted. … Party platforms do indeed make a difference.”

For a summary of the evolution of Democrat and Republican party platforms over the last few decades: https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/politics/2016-election/conventions/party-platform-evolution/?noredirect=on.

For a basic summary of the party platforms in the 2018 Ontario provincial election, see https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/platform-tracker-ontario-parties-election-1.4676595.

Atlas topic, subject, and course

Problem Definition and Agenda Setting (core topic) in Policy Analysis and Process and Atlas101.


Dictionary of American History, Platform, Party, The Gale Group. 2003. Via Encyclopedia.com. 2018., at https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/dictionaries-thesauruses-pictures-and-press-releases/platform-party, accessed 15 December 2018

Oxford Living Dictionary, Party Platform, The Oxford English Dictionary, at https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/party_platform, accessed 15 December 2018.

Thomas E. Mann (2000), Party Platforms Provide Glimpse Into Future, Brookings Op-Ed, 15 August 2000, at https://www.brookings.edu/opinions/party-platforms-provide-glimpse-into-future/, accessed 15 December 2018.

Page created by: Alec Wreford and Ian Clark, last modified on 11 December 2018.

Image: Depiction of Party Platforms on the Economy in the 2015 Canadian federal election, at http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-xV9DGmhleHE/ToR9Amy346I/AAAAAAAAA04/MpnumWhK3fg/s1600/political%2Bplatform%2B1.tiff, accessed 15 December 2018.