Groups, Behaviors, and Issues as Cues of Partisan Attachments in the Public

AuthorMichael Barber,Jeremy Pope
Published date01 September 2022
Date01 September 2022
Subject MatterArticles
American Politics Research
2022, Vol. 50(5) 603608
© The Author(s) 2022
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/1532673X221083831
Groups, Behaviors, and Issues as Cues of
Partisan Attachments in the Public
Michael Barber
and Jeremy Pope
What factors do people most associate with the partisan identity of others: group identity, political issue positions, or social
behaviors? In this research note, we report the results of a conjoint experiment in which we test the predictive power of
descriptive identities against other attributes such as social behaviors and issue positions. We f‌ind that when presented with a
randomized biography to predict partisanship, people rely on issue positions over descriptive gro up identities or behaviors.
Most issues outperform group aff‌iliations and behaviors, with sexual orientation as the partial exception. We then compared
these results to the correlation between the same factors in respondentsown biographies and their own partisan identif‌ication.
We f‌ind that political issues are far less important to peoples own partisan aff‌iliations, while group identity is more predictive.
We conclude that an understanding or perception of ideological concepts and their association with the political parties in
others should be distinguished from adoption of such concepts by individuals themselves.
partisanship, conjoint analysis, issues, group aff‌iliations
In contemporary America, peoples partisan aff‌iliations are
correlated with group aff‌iliations, personal behaviors, and
issue positions. However, among this expansive list, what
specif‌ic group identities, behaviors, and issues positions do
people most strongly associate with a persons partisan
identity? In this note, we measure the correlation between a
host of potential cues and a persons partisan aff‌iliation using
f‌irst a conjoint experiment that presents randomly generated
prof‌iles of individuals and asks respondents to guess this
persons partisan aff‌iliation. Wethen compare this correlation
to the correlation between these same factors and the parti-
sanship of the respondents completing the survey. In this way,
we can measure both peoples perceptions of otherspartisan
aff‌iliation as well as how their own partisan loyalties are
related to these factors.
Our results strongly suggest that the key factor people use
to draw inferences about partisanship (for both political
candidates and voters) is peoples political stances on various
issues. This suggests that while the public may be ideolog-
ically innocent in the sense of adopting a rigid framework of
issue positions (Campbell et al., 1960;Converse, 1964;
Kinder & Kalmoe, 2017), they are not innocent with respect
to understanding how those issue positions connect to par-
tisanship in the abstract.
This pattern is true despite the
importance of group aff‌iliations (Achen & Bartels, 2016;
Huddy et al., 2015) and behaviors associated with world
views (Hetherington & Weiler, 2018) in understanding
peoples actual partisan aff‌iliations. In other words, while
people understand the language of ideology, they are not apt
to adopt this language for their own viewsinstead relying
on their own shared group aff‌iliations and behaviors in their
partisan aff‌iliations.
There is growing evidence that citizens have some issue
commitments (Costa, forthcoming;Goggin et al., 2020;Orr
& Huber., 2019) that seem to heavily inf‌luence their ability to
draw inferences about partisanship, but views about how
much this matters vary. Mason (2018) claims that More
often than not, citizens do not choose which party to support
based on policy opinion; they alter their policy opinion ac-
cording to which party they support (20-21).In contrast,
Fowler (2020) argues that voter decisions are inf‌luenced by
substantive considerations including policy preferences and .
. . we do not have any compelling evidence to support the
claim that a meaningful share of votersdecisions is inf‌lu-
enced by party identity or any other kind of identity(p. 219,
emphasis added). Our contribution is twofold. First, most of
the research on this topic deals with how groups, issues, and
Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT, USA
Corresponding Author:
Jeremy Pope, Department of Political Science, Brigham Young University,
745 Spencer W. Kimball Tower, Provo, UT 84602, USA.

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT