Political Behavior

, Volume 27, Issue 2, pp 163-182

First online:

Who Toes the Party Line? Cues, Values, and Individual Differences

  • Cindy D. KamAffiliated withDepartment of Political Science, University of California–Davis Email author 

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This article explores individual differences in citizens’ reliance on cues and values in political thinking. It uses experimental evidence to identify which citizens are likely to engage in heuristic processing and which citizens are likely to engage in systematic processing in developing opinions about a novel issue. The evidence suggests that political awareness crisply distinguishes between heuristic and systematic processors. The less politically aware rely on party cues and not on an issue-relevant value. As political awareness increases, reliance on party cues drops and reliance on an issue-relevant value rises. Need for cognition fails to yield clear results. The results suggest two routes to opinion formation: heuristic processing and systematic processing. Political awareness, not need for cognition, predicts which route citizens will take.


public opinion political psychology political awareness party cues dual-process models need for cognition.