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Partisan Hearts and Minds

Partisan Hearts and Minds: Political Parties and the Social Identities of Voters

Donald Green
Bradley Palmquist
Eric Schickler
Copyright Date: 2002
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Partisan Hearts and Minds
    Book Description:

    In this, the first major treatment of party identification in twenty years, three political scientists assert that identification with political parties still powerfully determines how citizens look at politics and cast their ballots. Challenging prevailing views, they build a case for the continuing theoretical and political significance of partisan identities.The authors maintain that individuals form partisan attachments early in adulthood and that these political identities, much like religious identities, tend to persist or change only slowly over time. Scandals, recessions, and landslide elections do not greatly affect party identification; large shifts in party attachments occur only when the social imagery of a party changes, as when African Americans became part of the Democratic Party in the South after the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Drawing on a wealth of data analysis using individual-level and aggregate survey data from the United States and abroad, this study offers a new perspective on party identification that will set the terms of discussion for years to come.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13200-7
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-xii)
  4. Chapter 1 Introduction
    (pp. 1-23)

    In the context of public opinion research, the termpartisanshipis something of a double entendre, calling to mind both partisan cheering at sports events and affiliation with political parties. Both meanings, as it happens, comport with what those who study elections typically have in mind when discussing partisan attitudes. Ask a sample of ordinary citizens to assess the president’s integrity, policy initiatives, or performance in office, and one finds sharp disagreement between Democrats and Republicans. Indeed, Democrats and Republicans offer contrasting views not only on party leaders and their programs but also on their family, friends, pets—anything that...

  5. Chapter 2 Partisan Groups as Objects of Identification
    (pp. 24-51)

    The termidentificationis commonly used in two ways. One use is synonymous with empathy, as when a person identifies with a sympathetic social group. The groups in question may be real or imaginary, contemporary or historical. When we readThe Peloponnesian Wars,for example, we typically identify with the Athenians in the sense that we side emotionally with Athenian culture and institutions. Athenians are our kind of people; they are humane, articulate, and high-minded, if a bit fractious. Their Spartan adversaries are coarse and cruel. We identify with them only in those passages when their battle-field misfortunes elicit our...

  6. Chapter 3 A Closer Look at Partisan Stability
    (pp. 52-84)

    The previous chapter sought to establish that partisan identification is sufficiently meaningful and enduring to warrant the detailed quantitative examination that we will now give it. Here, we elaborate on our discussion of the stability of party attachments, as contrasted with other political attitudes and social identities. Our central hypothesis is that partisan self-conceptions much more closely resemble ethnic or religious self-conceptions than they do evaluations of political leaders, opinions about party platforms, or vote intentions. In the wake of scandal, economic downturn, or military setback, self-conceptions tend to persist, whereas political evaluations often change dramatically.

    In principle, chronicling the...

  7. Chapter 4 Partisan Stability: Evidence from Aggregate Data
    (pp. 85-108)

    Because partisan attachments predict how individuals vote, the distribution of these attachments in the electorate has important consequences for election outcomes. Although the outcome of each election reflects the idiosyncrasies of personality, campaign events, and policy stances, it remains the case that candidates tend to fare better at the polls when their fellow partisans constitute a larger share of the electorate. We are surprised when Kansas elects a Democratic member of Congress, or West Virginia a Republican. And when the distribution of party identification changes over time in a region, we see profound changes in election outcomes.

    This point is...

  8. Chapter 5 Partisan Stability and Voter Learning
    (pp. 109-139)

    Our characterization of partisanship emphasizes the role of social identification. Based on their understanding of which groups support each party and their own affinity for these groups, many citizens come to see themselves as members of partisan groups in much the same way that certain people incorporate religious, regional, or ethnic groups into their self-conceptions. Partisan identities in adults typically persist because group stereotypes persist, and the location of the self amid various social groups persists.

    Although persistence is the rule, partisan attachments may change as people acquire new information. Just what kinds of information are sufficient to produce partisan...

  9. Chapter 6 Party Realignment in the American South
    (pp. 140-163)

    Having demonstrated that people maintain their party attachments over time and having ruled out the notion that defensive psychological mechanisms are responsible for this pattern, we now return to our central hypothesis: Party attachments tend to be stable because the social group imagery associated with the parties tends to change slowly over time.¹ Once a person’s party attachments take root, they are seldom disrupted by new conceptions of the partisan groups and the social coalitions that they comprise.

    Note that party identities, in our view, are not inherently stable. Rather, their stability hinges on the way that partisan groups are...

  10. Chapter 7 Partisan Stability outside the United States
    (pp. 164-203)

    The thesis that party attachments form a stable part of citizens’ self-conceptions draws support from a wide range of American panel surveys. The question arises as to whether this claim extends beyond the borders of the United States. Although many countries, particularly in the West, feature more disciplined and ideologically distinct political parties, a great many scholars have expressed skepticism about whether the concept of party identification is equally fruitful when applied outside the United States (see, for example, Kaase 1976: 99—100; LeDuc et al.1984; Thomassen 1976; and Budge and Farlie 1976; for defenses of the applicability of party...

  11. Chapter 8 How Partisan Attachments Structure Politics
    (pp. 204-230)

    Party identification is an unending source of fascination for researchers who study how voters think, feel, and formulate decisions. Study after study examines how partisanship develops and expresses itself, and this book has tried to integrate and interpret this immense body of research. Our reading of the evidence suggests that the outstanding characteristic of party identification is its resemblance to other familiar forms of social identification. Like identification with a socioeconomic class, party identification reflects an awareness that one belongs to a social group. As with ethnic identification, the individual must decide whether to appropriate the group label as part...

  12. Appendix
    (pp. 231-234)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 235-244)
  14. References
    (pp. 245-254)
  15. Index
    (pp. 255-266)