Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 3, pp 675–702 | Cite as

Disputed Ownership: Parties, Issues, and Traits in the Minds of Voters

  • Stephen N. Goggin
  • Alexander G. TheodoridisEmail author
Original Paper


Is party “ownership” of issues and traits manifest in the minds of voters in ways that could generate the oft-hypothesized implications for mass and elite electoral behavior? We specify two ways in which it may be: party reputations refer to the association of a trait or issue with a party; candidate stereotyping requires that party labels prompt differential assignment of attributes or competencies to candidates. We develop a quantitative measure of both ownership types, and apply it to issues and traits. New national survey data provide the first evidence that party reputation ownership exists for issues and traits. New experimental tests reveal evidence of candidate stereotyping for issues, but not traits. Voters associate some traits more with one party, but may not assign them to candidates based upon party label, demonstrating a key difference in the nature and likely implications of issue and trait ownership.


Ownership Issues Traits Candidates Partisanship Experiments Parties 



We wish to acknowledge Doug Ahler, Steve Ansolabehere, Adam Berinsky, Henry Brady, David Broockman, John Bullock, David Campbell, Devin Caughey, Scott Clifford, Pat Egan, David Fortunato, Sean Gailmard, Tom Hansford, Danny Hayes, John Henderson, Matt Hibbing, Vince Hutchings, Travis Johnston, David Karol, Geoff Layman, Gabe Lenz, Samantha Luks, Nate Monroe, Steve Nicholson, David Nickerson, Phil Rocco, Eric Schickler, Jas Sekhon, Jessica Trounstine, Kim Twist, Rob Van Houweling, Christina Wolbrecht, and the anonymous reviewers, for their extraordinarily helpful comments on this project as it has taken shape. We also wish to thank participants in the Causal Inference Workshop and Research Workshop in American Politics at the University of California, Berkeley, the American Workshop at the University of Notre Dame’ Rooney Center, and fellow panelists and audience members at various academic conferences for their comments and suggestions. This work was funded by generous research support from the University of California, Merced. All studies were approved or deemed exempt by the appropriate institutional research ethics committees. Replication data and the online appendix are available on the Harvard Dataverse at

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9375_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (376 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 377 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.San Diego State UniversitySan DiegoUSA
  2. 2.University of California, MercedMercedUSA

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