Although they are traditionally viewed as destabilizing influences, political factions and tendencies perform important adaptative functions in party systems. Using the Australian party system as a case study, this paper tests two hypotheses to explain their adaptative role. An electoral hypothesis proposes that factions and tendencies have broadened their respective party's electoral appeal, while an organizational hypothesis suggests that their influence is primarily on party activists and members. The results from a matched sample of candidates and voters collected during the 1987 Australian federal election reject the electoral hypothesis but give support to the organizational hypothesis. The implications of these findings for the study of political parties in advanced industrial society is discussed.
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