I'm Not That Liberal: Explaining Conservative Democratic Identification


The persistence of self-identified conservative Democrats in the electorate is puzzling. Both the ongoing Southern realignment and the recent ideological polarization should have resulted in conservative Democrats changing their party identification to accord with their discrepant ideology. Instead, the number of conservative Democrats, as a percentage of the total electorate, has held steady over the last 20 years. I propose an explanation for this phenomenon that draws upon theories of mass belief systems, as well as an element of recent political reality: the popular stigmatization of the word “liberal.” I argue that Democrats who are susceptible to elite cues garner positive affect toward the conservative label and negative affect toward the liberal label. They then identify themselves accordingly, regardless of their issue positions.

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Schiffer, A.J. I'm Not That Liberal: Explaining Conservative Democratic Identification. Political Behavior 22, 293–310 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1010626029987

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  • ideology
  • public opinion
  • party identification