Political Behavior

, Volume 36, Issue 3, pp 553–580 | Cite as

To Know You is Not Necessarily to Love You: The Partisan Mediators of Intergroup Contact

  • Joshua J. Dyck
  • Shanna Pearson-Merkowitz
Original Paper


We propose the contact–cue interaction approach to studying political contact—that cues from trusted political elites can moderate the effect of contact on the formation of public policy opinions. Allport’s initial formulation of the contact effect noted that it relies on authority support. In a highly polarized political era, authoritative voices for individuals vary based on party identification. Social experiences may affect public policy, but they must also be considered in light of partisan filters. Using data from the 2006 CCES, we examine the manner in which straight respondents with gay family members, friends, co-workers and acquaintances view same-sex marriage policy, finding a strong contact effect among Democrats, but no contact effect among the strongest Republican identifiers. Our data and analyses strongly support the perspective that social interactions (and their effect on policy) are understood through the lens of partisanship and elite cues.


Intergroup contact Same sex marriage Elite cues Party identification Gay rights 



We would like to thank Tom Carsey, Eric Plutzer, Beth Reingold, the editors and the anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and suggestions. A previous version of this paper was presented at the State Politics and Policy Conference, June 3–5, 2010, Springfield, IL and the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL April 22–25, 2010. Any errors present are our own.


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© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Massachusetts LowellLowellUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Rhode IslandKingstonUSA

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