The Limits of Partisan Loyalty

  • Jonathan Mummolo
  • Erik Peterson
  • Sean WestwoodEmail author
Original Paper


While partisan cues tend to dominate political choice, prior work shows that competing information can rival the effects of partisanship if it relates to salient political issues. But what are the limits of partisan loyalty? How much electoral leeway do co-partisan candidates have to deviate from the party line on important issues? We answer this question using conjoint survey experiments that characterize the role of partisanship relative to issues. We demonstrate a pattern of conditional party loyalty. Partisanship dominates electoral choice when elections center on low-salience issues. But while partisan loyalty is strong, it is finite: the average voter is more likely than not to vote for the co-partisan candidate until that candidate takes dissonant stances on four or more salient issues. These findings illuminate when and why partisanship fails to dominate political choice. They also suggest that, on many issues, public opinion minimally constrains politicians.


Party cues Public opinion Voting 



The authors thank Jeremy Ferwerda, Martin Gilens, Justin Grimmer, Greg Huber, Lilliana Mason, Lilla Orr, Markus Prior and Lauren Wright for helpful comments.

Supplementary material

11109_2019_9576_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (189 kb)
Electronic supplementary material 1 (PDF 190 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Princeton UniversityPrincetonUSA
  2. 2.Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  3. 3.Dartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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