When People Change Their Partisanship, is it Bottom-Up or Top-Down?

Monday, January 30, 2023 (3:30 PM – 5:00 PM)

Ken Kollman

Director, Center for Political Studies
Frederick G. L. Huetwell Professor of Political Science
University of Michigan

In studies of partisan political polarization, it is common to mis-specify the relationships among partisanship, issue-positions, and candidate evaluations. Partisanship is a complex phenomenon that requires attention to various factors that affect mass public opinion about political leaders. This research carefully specifies a theory and empirical model of partisanship that can account for dynamics in the reputations of political parties, the potential changes in policy preferences of people, and in people’s evaluations of politicians. The empirical results show that central to understanding partisanship dynamics are movements of parties in ideological space as perceived by the mass public. Thus, partisanship change is more of an elite-driven process than a bottom-up driven process.  The findings have important implications for understanding contemporary polarization of American politics. This is joint research with John E. Jackson.

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