Mapping the Boundaries of Elite Cues: How Elites Shape Mass Opinion Across International Issues

30 Pages Posted: 19 Aug 2013

See all articles by Alexandra Guisinger

Alexandra Guisinger

Department of Political Science, Temple University

Elizabeth N. Saunders

George Washington University - Department of Political Science

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2013

Abstract

When and how do elite messages shape mass opinion on international issues? A largely divided literature has focused on two components of elite cues — information and partisan attribution — as rival alternatives. We argue instead for an interplay of influence that depends on the characteristics of mass opinion itself: distance from expert opinion and the degree of partisan polarization. Where the divide in partisan opinion is limited, information effects should outweigh attribution effects, but as issues areas appear increasingly divided on party lines, intake of information should be increasingly limited by attribution to particular parties, even to the exclusion of non-attributed (generic) expert opinion. In a series of survey experiments, we seek to map the boundaries of this interplay across a range of economic and security issue areas, including the rise of China, climate change, international institutions, and the use of military force. We find strong support for our hypothesis. At one extreme, all messages, even those from opposition experts, are effective in changing opinion; at the other, only partisan information matters, to the exclusion of generic messages. We also find suggestive evidence that in the limiting case of extremely polarized issue areas, outparty cues can outweigh inparty cues and drive respondents away from policy options they would be expected to support.

Keywords: public opinion, foreign policy, elites, partisanship

Suggested Citation

Guisinger, Alexandra G. and Saunders, Elizabeth N., Mapping the Boundaries of Elite Cues: How Elites Shape Mass Opinion Across International Issues (2013). APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper, American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2300147

Alexandra G. Guisinger (Contact Author)

Department of Political Science, Temple University ( email )

409 Gladfelter Hall
1115 Polett Walk
Philadelphia, PA 19122
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.temple.edu/guisinger/

Elizabeth N. Saunders

George Washington University - Department of Political Science ( email )

2115 G Street NW
Washington, DC 20052
United States

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