It's Not Easy Being Green: Minor Party Labels as Heuristic Aids

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Abstract

This paper examines if, when, and to what extent U.S. minor party labels influence individual opinions over a range of political issues. Based on data from an experimental study, we reach three general conclusions. First, as cues, party labels are more likely to influence opinions over complex issues. Second, familiarity with and trust in a party condition cue acceptance. Third, as a whole, minor party labels act as effective cues less consistently than major parties. This finding, we suggest, indicates that there exists some threshold level of familiarity and trust that minor parties must reach in the mass public in order to be effective cues. This research is valuable because it extends current work on party labels as heuristic devices and more general work on cues; our findings are additionally important given recent trends in public opinion data, which indicate that the U.S. public is becoming more accepting of minor parties as permanent features of the political system.

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