Party Brands and Partisanship: Theory with Evidence from a Survey Experiment in Argentina


  • For their comments and advice, I thank Chris Achen, Peter Buisseret, Nick Carnes, Thad Dunning, Marty Gilens, Don Green, Matt Ingram, Yon Lupu, Becky Morton, Jonas Pontusson, Grigo Pop-Eleches, Markus Prior, Sue Stokes, Dustin Tingley, Josh Tucker, Teppei Yamamoto, Deborah Yashar, Liz Zechmesiter, and participants of the New York Area Graduate Student Experimental Working Group as well as seminars at Princeton and the Catholic University of Córdoba in Argentina. I am also grateful to Valeria Brusco, Gustavo Córdoba, Thad Dunning, Marcelo Nazareno, Mario Riorda, and Sue Stokes for their collaboration implementing the survey. Previous versions of this article were presented at the 2010 annual meetings of the American Political Science Association, Latin American Studies Association, and Midwest Political Science Association as well as the 2011 annual meeting of the Southern Political Science Association and NYU-CESS Conference on Experimental Political Science. Funding for the survey was generously provided by the Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice at Princeton University and the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies at Yale University. I also gratefully acknowledge the support of the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies at the University of Notre Dame and the Center for Advanced Study in the Social Sciences at the Juan March Institute. Replication materials for the empirical analysis in this article are available at All translations of the survey instrument are my own.

Noam Lupu is Junior Research Fellow at the Juan March Institute, Castelló 77, 28006 Madrid, Spain (


Scholars disagree about the nature of party attachments, viewing partisanship as either a social identity or a rational maximization of expected utility. Empirically, much of this debate centers on the degree of partisan stability: findings of partisan fluctuations are taken as evidence against the social-identity perspective. But drawing such conclusions assumes that the objects of identity—parties—are fixed. If we instead allow party brands to change over time, then partisan instability is consistent with a social-identity conception of partisanship. To demonstrate this, I develop a branding model of partisanship in which voters learn about party brands by observing party behavior over time and base their psychological attachment to a party on these brands. The model suggests that convergence by rival parties, making their brands less distinguishable, should weaken party attachments. I test this implication using a survey experiment in Argentina and find evidence consistent with the model.