The Heuristic Function of Party Affiliation in Voter Mobilization Campaigns: Informational Short Cut or Source Cue?
41 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2014
Date Written: November 21, 2013
Party affiliation is the most important heuristic that helps individuals infer information about candidates campaigning in elections. Knowing a candidate’s party affiliation should therefore help individuals of all partisan persuasions to arrive at voting decisions, thereby increasing turnout. However, if a heuristic helps individuals to connect messages to sources that they like or dislike depending on their political predispositions, a candidate’s party affiliation could instead cue individuals to either accept or discount the message altogether. Using the methodological rigor of a randomized GOTV field experiment to address this important theoretical distinction between the heuristic functions of party affiliation, we vary whether a party’s GOTV call refers to the candidate’s party affiliation during a low-information election. Our results support the idea that individuals use party affiliation as a cue to decide whether to accept or reject a GOTV message, rather than as an informational shortcut to candidate’s ideology or policy positions.
Keywords: party affiliation, randomized field experiment, partisanship, mobilization, election campaigns, GOTV, information
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