Informing the Electorate? How Party Cues and Policy Information Affect Public Opinion about Initiatives
Boudreau, Cheryl and Scott A. MacKenzie. 2014. "Informing the Electorate? How Party Cues and Policy Information Affect Public Opinion about Initiatives." American Journal of Political Science 58(1): 48-62.
37 Pages Posted: 1 Aug 2011 Last revised: 6 Mar 2014
Date Written: 2014
Citizens in representative democracies receive party endorsements and policy information when choosing candidates or making policy decisions via the initiative process. What effects do these sources of information have on public opinion? We address this important question by conducting survey experiments where citizens express opinions about initiatives in a real-world electoral context. We manipulate whether they receive party cues, policy information, both, or neither type of information. We find that citizens do not simply ignore policy information when they are also exposed to party cues. Rather, citizens respond by shifting their opinions away from their party’s positions when policy information provides a compelling reason for doing so. These results challenge the prominent claim in public opinion research that citizens blindly follow their party when also exposed to policy information. They also suggest that efforts to inform the electorate can influence opinions, provided that citizens actually receive the information being disseminated.
Keywords: party cues; public opinion; policy information; initiative; experiment; motivated reasoning; direct democracy
JEL Classification: C90, C99, D72, D79, D81, D83
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation