A little bit of a research snippet from The Economist:
Political scientists disagree over the causes of the parties’ decline. But a more pressing question is its effects. The decline of partisanship could signal a less tribal, more educated electorate. But research on 36 countries by Professor Paul Whiteley of the University of Essex shows a strong correlation between political partisanship and good public administration. A rise of ten percentage points in partisanship goes along with an increase of one notch in the World Bank’s good-governance table (which assesses countries on a five-point index). A strong party base may help politicians to push through unpopular but necessary reforms. A weak one means that followers flee when the going gets tough.
I haven’t had any success locating the research discussed using Google Scholar, though I’ve come across a number of other articles by Whiteley utilising the same data set – from the Citizenship Study conducted in 2004 by the International Social Survey Program. So I’m unclear as to how precisely the variable of political partisanship has been specified, though the World Bank Good Governance indicators are available online.
I’d have to say, though, that the findings make intuitive sense, as does the suggestion that strong leadership (leaving aside the probably loaded meaning of “reform” employed by The Economist) is more possible with a strong partisan support base. What’s interesting to speculate on, in our own current political environment, is the degree to which such a support base could be created or recreated by said strong leadership.