Political Behavior

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 455–484 | Cite as

When is Changing Policy Positions Costly for Politicians? Experimental Evidence

  • David DohertyEmail author
  • Conor M. Dowling
  • Michael G. Miller
Original Paper


Although changing policy positions is often thought of as costly for politicians, this may not always be the case. We present findings from two survey experiments designed to assess how people respond to politicians who change positions on an issue. We examine the direct effects of position changes on both summary evaluations of a candidate and ratings of a candidate’s character. We find that the effect of changing positions varies across issues and that the passage of time attenuates the negative effects of a change of position. We also find that although individual voters prefer a candidate who moves closer to their own preferred policy position to one who sticks to a disliked policy position, in the aggregate changing policy positions may be costly unless the prospective new position is supported by a supermajority of the public.


Repositioning Public opinion Flip-flop Elections Candidate positioning Representation 

Supplementary material

11109_2015_9321_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (77 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 78kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Doherty
    • 1
    Email author
  • Conor M. Dowling
    • 2
  • Michael G. Miller
    • 3
  1. 1.Political Science DepartmentLoyola University ChicagoChicagoUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MississippiUniversityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political Science, Barnard CollegeColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA

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