Reading Practice Test 74 from The Collection of TOEFL Reading Comprehension

Passage 3: 

National parties in the United States have generally been weak in structure and wary of ideology. Many writers have said that American parties are the least centralized in the world. However, the argument that parties have not represented significant differences in policy can be pushed too far. For example, in this century, at least, the Republicans have been more committed than the Democrats to a market – oriented economy, while the Democrats have been more prepared to use government to address economic problems. Within both parties there has been wide variance on issues but in general the Republicans have been the more conservative and the Democrats the more liberal.

Both parties, however, have resisted reducing these tendencies in their social, economic, and moral belief systems to a rigid ideology. And neither, until recently, vested much authority in its national party structure.

At state and local levels, on the other hand, party organizations often achieved impressive levels of solidarity and internal discipline. Both Democrats and Republicans maintained potent local political organizations in many cities and states.

Whatever their merits or demerits, the traditional organizations went into steep decline during the 1950’s and 1960’s. The Old organizations lost the ability to maintain internal discipline The share of voters regarding themselves as political independents, that is, people not affiliated with either of the major parties, rose.

There were several reasons for the loss of effectiveness of the major party organizations. Development of a welfare state administered by the federal government established some of the services that had formerly been dispensed by the organizations as political favors. As recent immigrants became more educated they were less dependent on party workers. The inclusion of more state employees under civil service protection dried up some of the old wells of patronage. Growing unionization of public employees after 1960 struck an even more serious blow at the patronage system. Television brought candidates into voters’ living rooms, thereby antiquating some of the communication and education functions of party workers. Most of all, perhaps, the old tribal differences associated with the parties began to seem irrelevant to members of generations that sought fresh identities.

1. What does the passage mainly discuss?
(A) American political parties in the twentieth century
(B) The role of ideology in American politics
(C) The future direction of United States politics
(D) Differences between Republicans and Democrats

2. According to the passage, what is true of the major political parties in the United States?
(A) They are both generally conservative
(B) Party organizations have been stronger at the state level than at the national level
(C) Party organizations have increased their influence in recent years
(D) Democrats have been stronger than Republicans at the national level

3. The word “steep” in line 15 is closest in meaning to which of the following?
(A) characteristic
(B) unexpected
(C) sharp
(D) predictable

4. The passage mentions all of the following as causes of the decline of political organization in the United States EXCEPT
(A) increased numbers of immigrants
(B) development of the welfare state
(C) improved conditions for state workers
(D) the influence of television

5. The passage supports which of the following conclusions?
(A) Democrats are more committed than Republicans to a market – oriented economy
(B) Republicans are more liberal than Democrats
(C) Republicans and Democrats tend to be flexible on ideological questions
(D) Only Democrats have traditional political organizations

6. The word “irrelevant” in line 28 is closest in meaning to
(A) unquestioning (B) uninteresting
(C) irreversible (D) unimportant

Reading Practice Test 74 from The Collection of TOEFL Reading Comprehension
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