Follow the Leader: Party Cues, Partisans, and Public Opinion in Old and New Democracies
50 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 21 Aug 2009
Date Written: 2009
Our goal in this paper is to reinvigorate the comparative study of partisan effects in an effort to begin to answer the following question: is partisanship a phenomenon that travels beyond the shores of the United States? If so, does it have different effects in different political contexts and, if that is the case, then why? To do so, we conduct experiments to test the impact of party cues on policy opinions of both partisans and non-partisans in one of the oldest democracies in the world, Great Britain, and two new post-communist democracies, Hungary and Poland. Our experiments test the effects of party cues on public opinion formation in two ways: Single Party Cue (SPC) experiments examine whether being told that one’s preferred party supports a particular policy proposal makes the respondent more likely to support that proposal; while Multiple Party Cue (MPC) experiments test whether the explicit linking of positions on a policy question to a number of political parties makes respondents more likely to select their preferred party’s position on that issue. Our findings are nuanced but clear: party cues can indeed have effects on public opinion formation by partisans outside of the United States, and these effects are both stronger and are more sharply distinguished between partisans and non-partisans in the established democracy of Great Britain. That being said, at least some of our findings from Hungary look surprisingly more similar to the results from Great Britain than they do to the results from Poland.
Keywords: partisanship, party identification, survey experiments, Great Britain, England, Poland, Hungary, post-communist politics, policy positions, public opinion
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