We thank Matt Golder for making his data available and Rafaela Dancygier and Athanassios Roussias for research assistance. We also thank Cliff Carrubba, Bill Clark, Jamie Druckman, John Freeman, Jude Hays, Sara Hobolt, Orit Kedar, Gary Marks, Mark Peffley, Wendy Rahn, Nick Valentino, Rob Van Houweling, Dominick Wright, Dean Yang, John Zaller, and conference participants at the University of Michigan, UCLA, the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems Plenary Session, and the annual meetings of the Midwest Political Science Association and the American Political Science Association for helpful comments.
Estimating the Effect of Elite Communications on Public Opinion Using Instrumental Variables
Article first published online: 2 OCT 2007
American Journal of Political Science
Volume 51, Issue 4, pages 1013–1028, October 2007
How to Cite
Gabel, M. and Scheve, K. (2007), Estimating the Effect of Elite Communications on Public Opinion Using Instrumental Variables. American Journal of Political Science, 51: 1013–1028. doi: 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2007.00294.x
- Issue published online: 2 OCT 2007
- Article first published online: 2 OCT 2007
A central question in the study of democratic polities is the extent to which elite opinion about policy shapes public opinion. Estimating the impact of elites on mass opinion is difficult because of endogeneity, omitted variables, and measurement error. This article proposes an identification strategy for estimating the causal effect of elite messages on public support for European integration employing changes in political institutions as instrumental variables. We find that more negative elite messages about European integration do indeed decrease public support for Europe. Our analysis suggests that OLS estimates are biased, underestimating the magnitude of the effect of elite messages by 50%. We also find no evidence that this effect varies for more politically aware individuals, and our estimates are inconsistent with a mainstreaming effect in which political awareness increases support for Europe in those settings in which elites have a favorable consensus on the benefits of integration.