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Political Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 1, pp 111–131 | Cite as

Clearer Cues, More Consistent Voters: A Benefit of Elite Polarization

  • Matthew S. LevenduskyEmail author
Original Paper

Abstract

Scholars typically argue that elite polarization has only negative consequences for American politics. I challenge this view by demonstrating that elite polarization, by clarifying where the parties stand on the issues of the day, causes ordinary voters to adopt more consistent attitudes. Scholars have made such claims in the past, but because only observational data has been available, demonstrating a cause-and-effect relationship has proven to be difficult. I use original experiments to verify that there is a small but significant causal link between elite polarization and voter consistency. These findings have important normative implications for our understanding of the consequences of elite polarization, the role of political parties in a modern democracy, and the standards scholars use to assess citizen competence and participation.

Keywords

Elite polarization Attitude consistency Experiment 

Notes

Acknowledgments

I would like to thank John Bullock, Don Green, Kim Gross, Jon Krosnick, Neil Malhotra, Diana Mutz, Paul Sniderman, Chris Wlezien, and seminar participants at Temple University and the 2008 APSA meetings for helpful comments. Special thanks go to Diana Mutz and the Institute for the Study of Citizens and Politics for generously funding this research.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaUSA

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