Party Affiliation, Partisanship, and Political Beliefs: A Field Experiment

49 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2009 Last revised: 27 Jun 2010

See all articles by Alan Gerber

Alan Gerber

Yale University - Department of Political Science; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Gregory Huber

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Ebonya L. Washington

Yale University - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Date Written: September 2009

Abstract

Political partisanship is strongly correlated with attitudes and behavior, but it is unclear from this pattern whether partisan identity has a causal effect on political behavior and attitudes. We report the results of a field experiment designed to investigate the causal effect of party identification. Prior to the February 2008 Connecticut presidential primary, researchers sent a mailing to a random sample of unaffiliated registered voters informing them of the need to register in order to participate in the upcoming primary. Comparing post-treatment survey responses to subjects' baseline survey responses, we find that those informed of the need to register with a party were more likely to affiliate with a party and subsequently showed stronger partisanship. Further, we find that the treatment group also demonstrated greater concordance than the control group between their pre-treatment latent partisanship and their post-treatment reported voting behavior and intentions and evaluations of partisan figures. Thus our treatment, which caused a strengthening of partisan identity, also caused a shift in subjects' candidate preferences and evaluations of salient political figures. This finding is consistent with the claim that partisanship is an active force changing how citizens behave in and perceive the political world.

Suggested Citation

Gerber, Alan and Huber, Gregory and Washington, Ebonya L., Party Affiliation, Partisanship, and Political Beliefs: A Field Experiment (September 2009). NBER Working Paper No. w15365. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1475556

Alan Gerber

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States
203-432-5232 (Phone)

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Gregory Huber

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States

Ebonya L. Washington (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Economics ( email )

28 Hillhouse Ave
New Haven, CT 06520-8264
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.yale.edu/polisci/people/ewashington.html

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

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Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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