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.
KeywordsParty 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.
- Boudreau, C., Elmendorf, C., & MacKenzie, S.A. (n.d.) Roadmaps to representation: An experimental study of how voter education tools affect citizen decision making. Political Behavior (pp. 1–24).Google Scholar
- Campbell, A., Converse, P. E., Miller, W. E., & Stokes, D. E. (1960). The American Voter. New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
- Chong, D., & Mullinix, K.J. (n.d.) Information and issue constraints on party cues. American Politics Research. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
- Downs, A. (1957). An economic Theory of democracy. Manhattan: Harper & Row.Google Scholar
- Fowler, A. (n.d.) Partisan intoxication or policy voting? Quarterly Journal of Political Science. Forthcoming. https://drive.google.com/file/d/1StjsBztpHTYDErcKbgjNk0ujWXXDxb7O.
- Green, D., Palmquist, B., & Schickler, E. (2002). Partisan hearts and minds. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
- Key, V. O. (1961). Public opinion and American Democracy. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
- Kinder, D. R., & Kalmoe, N. P. (2017). Neither liberal nor conservative: Ideological innocence in the American public. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
- Leeper, T., & Robison, J. (n.d.) More important, but for what exactly? The insignificant role of subject issue importance in vote decisions. Political Behavior. Forthcoming.Google Scholar
- Petty, R., & Krosnick, J. (1995). Attitude strength: Antecendents and consequences. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum.Google Scholar
- Sears, D. (1975). Political socialization. In F. I. Greenstein & N. W. Polsby (Eds.), Handbook of political science (Vol. 2, pp. 95–153). Boston: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar