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20160527 -Partisan Hearts and Minds



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The main idea is that party affiliation is a stable characteristic of individuals and significant part of their identity. It mainly remains stable over the live time with changes relatively easy occurring in young age and much more difficult albeit possible later in live, especially if party’s ideological structure changed. At the same time party affiliation only partially predict voting behavior leaving a lot in flux, enough to make stability of control over state power lower than it would be warranted by party affiliation.



This book is about stability of partisan affiliations. The conception of such affiliation characterizes it as party identification as voter’s running tally of the parties’ competence and ideological appeal. In this party identification also serves as a perceptual screen. However it is more than party identification, it is also identification with social groups that linked to the party therefore it is quite stable condition of voter’s mind. However if party perceived as incompetent in achieving objectives of affiliated social groups it could be discarded or reinstated.

  1. Introduction,

Very important point here is that partisanship has low dependency on usual demographics, but high dependency on parental affiliation. However perceiving oneself as Democrat or Republican does not create automatic loyalty to the party’s current candidate, only some inclination. Consequently in just about any election some minority of Democrats votes for Republicans and visa versa. However there is high level of political significance of stability of partisan affiliation. Partisan attachment to the party is akin to religious identification. But it is not perfectly static. As it is with religious affiliation the change is possible including mass conversion as it happened during the Great Depression when Republican Party lost its partisan majority position and with it nearly all political influence. Different process seems to be happening after WWII when Democratic Party slowly loosing its dominant position, but not to Republicans but to Independents.

  1. Partisan Groups as Objects of Identification,

This is about partisan affiliation being an important part of personal identity and therefore is not easily changeable and it looks at definition and measurement of partisan identification. An interesting thing about it is that correlation between party identification and stand on issues traditionally was not as strong as one could expect. Authors provide data only until 1996 so it does not show current polarization, but it is still interesting to look at:

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Nevertheless despite cross party line voting is not unusual it still remains very limited with Party affiliation playing defining role in attitude to issues.

  1. A Closer Look at Partisan Stability

Author defines partisan stability as high level of correlation of party affiliation over time. Here they go into statistical details of their methods. This is traced not only through live of individual, but also across generations comparatively with religious affiliation:

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  1. Partisan Stability: Evidence from Aggregate Data,

This is about partisan balance of electorate overall and its slow change. Specifically it analyses cross party voting patterns:

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In summary authors stress high level of dependency on political events referring to high level of cross party attraction of Johnson in 1964 and Reagan and repelling of Nixon in1974 and Carter in 1980.

  1. Partisan Stability and Voter Learning

This is an analysis of what stable attachments mean for party identification. It is again detailed review of statistical models. The general inference that learning is not easy and mainly occurs thru generational change when young people relatively open to ideological influence different than one dominating their family.

  1. Party Realignment in the American South

This is a case study of partisan affiliation change of Southerners between Democrats and Republicans in America after WWII. Very interesting point here is that switch of southern voters from D to R did not occur at once due to civil rights laws, but rather had was a two step process with the second step being Reagan revolution completed from 1082 to 1992.

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  1. Partisan Stability outside the United States

This is case study of identification change in Italy after collapse of communism

  1. How Partisan Attachments Structure Politics

The final chapter is about impact that partisan affiliation has on electoral competition. Authors seem to estimate it at the level of 75% probability of person to vote for the party of his/her affiliation. However it leaves plenty of space for electoral variance, especially if one takes into account current 40% of unaffiliated voters. At the same time stability of party affiliation makes it very difficult to achieve electoral success for anybody outside existing two parties political system.


This is a nice analysis of party affiliation, its change over time, and its impact on voting. However I think that this analysis is somewhat outdated because party affiliation is artifact of old times and will decrease significantly in the future because the huge progress in communication and social network make party redundant and would allow people concentrate on issues they are concerned with at the expense of coherent and comprehensive ideology presented by parties. The voting behavior will depend a lot less on formal or even informal affiliation than on individual estimate which set of candidates would be most probable to deliver on issues of his/her concern.

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