Expressive Politics as (Costly) Norm-Following

70 Pages Posted: 12 Oct 2016 Last revised: 4 Apr 2019

See all articles by Mark Pickup

Mark Pickup

Simon Fraser University (SFU)

Erik O. Kimbrough

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics

Eline A. de Rooij

University of Oxford

Date Written: April 1, 2019


When deciding whether to support a political candidate, policy or cause, individuals are observed to prioritize the expression of their political identities. They even knowingly incur personal costs (a lower wage, strained family relations) to do so. We argue that leading theories on how political identities drive political decisions cannot explain such costly political expression but viewing political identities as social identities that impart norms on who or what one ought to support can. Through a series of population-based experiments, we show that individuals are aware of the norms attached to their political identities; are aware when these norms conflict with other preferences; will knowingly choose norm-compliance over those other preferences; and that this costly political identity expression varies with norm salience and strength. Our results imply that as political identities strengthen, group norm compliance will increase, even at a cost, rendering compromise between political groups less likely.

Keywords: norms, identity, political expression, experiments

Suggested Citation

Pickup, Mark and Kimbrough, Erik O. and de Rooij, Eline A., Expressive Politics as (Costly) Norm-Following (April 1, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Mark Pickup (Contact Author)

Simon Fraser University (SFU) ( email )

8888 University Drive
Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 1S6

Erik O. Kimbrough

Chapman University - The George L. Argyros School of Business & Economics ( email )

One University Dr
Orange, CA 92866
United States

Eline A. De Rooij

University of Oxford ( email )

Mansfield Road
Oxford, Oxfordshire OX1 4AU
United Kingdom

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