Macropartisanship and Macroideology in the Sophisticated Electorate

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Abstract

There are many reasons to believe that political parties' fortunes and the ideological preferences of the electorate are tied together. Yet existing evidence finds no relationship between trends in the partisan and ideological identifications of the American electorate (Box-Steffensmeier, Knight, and Sigelman 1998). We argue that a portion of the electorate organizes political debate in terms of liberal and conservative referents and, in turn, links ideological and partisan identifications over time. Evidence from CBS News and New York Times survey data affirms the conclusion that for the more sophisticated portion of the electorate, partisan and ideological trends are mutually reinforcing in both the long and the short run. These groups are also more likely to vote than less politically sophisticated groups, so the incentives for politicians to link popular ideological sentiment with partisanship are strong; the people who pay attention to politics and put them in office (or kick them out) are the same people who connect ideology and partisanship.

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