Partisan Feedback: Heterogeneity in Opinion Responsiveness

Research paper by Alexander Branham J.

Indexed on: 18 Feb '19Published on: 28 Sep '18Published in: Public opinion quarterly


Do partisans respond differently to changes in public policy depending on which party controls the government' It is well established that opinions of various groups tend to move in parallel over time; however, work on partisanship shows that partisans can respond very differently to the same message. This study investigates whether partisans from different parties react the same to changes in policy (as implied by the parallel-publics literature), or differently (as implied by the partisanship literature). I argue that we should see important differences in policy feedback between partisan groups, but only on salient policies that have large disagreement across partisan lines. To test this expectation, I use the thermostatic model of opinion-policy feedback, relying on data from the 1973–2014 General Social Survey. Findings indicate that partisans react differently to policy in issue areas with relatively large disagreement. This finding enhances our understanding of the interaction between partisan control of government and partisanship in the opinion-policy process. Implications of these findings for research on public opinion and public policy are discussed.