How Do Partisans Navigate Elite Intra-group Dissent? Leadership, Partisanship, and the Limits of Democratic Accountability

35 Pages Posted: 4 May 2020

See all articles by Alexandra Filindra

Alexandra Filindra

University of Illinois at Chicago

Laurel Harbridge

Northwestern University

Date Written: April 7, 2020

Abstract

Democratic erosion has led scholars to query how voters respond to leaders who violate norms. Given polarization and the centrality of identity in partisan affiliations, criticism by co-partisan elites may be crucial to checking party leaders. We draw on theories of partisanship as a social identity as well as perspectives on leadership and dissent to theorize how partisans respond to misbehavior by an ingroup leader, and to criticism of the leader by a co-partisan. We test our expectations through multiple survey experiments. We find evidence of ingroup bias in evaluations of the misbehaving leader and little evidence that ingroup dissent is an effective constraint on leaders. Except in the most serious leadership transgressions of ‘hard’ norms, people rally around leaders when confronted with dissent by co-partisan elites. Overall, the results suggest that ingroup dissent may not lead to leader accountability.

Keywords: partisanship, leadership, social identity

Suggested Citation

Filindra, Alexandra and Harbridge, Laurel, How Do Partisans Navigate Elite Intra-group Dissent? Leadership, Partisanship, and the Limits of Democratic Accountability (April 7, 2020). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3570984 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3570984

Alexandra Filindra (Contact Author)

University of Illinois at Chicago ( email )

1102 Behavioral Science Building (BSB)
Chicago, IL 60607-7137
United States

Laurel Harbridge

Northwestern University ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

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