ISPS EXPERIMENTS WORKSHOP
Abstract: In the event that constituents and their representatives differ with regard to a particular policy position, constituents seem to be more willing to adopt their representative’s policy positions than to alter their evaluation of those representatives. However, examination of heterogeneity in this behavior across policy areas has been largely absent from the contemporary American politics research agenda. Similarly, the extent to which the appearance of opinion change can be attributed to a priming or cheerleading effects versus genuine, enduring opinion change has gone largely uninvestigated. In the weeks prior to the most recent Midterm Election, a series of survey experiments were conducted in order to better understand the role of elite influence on the policy preferences and the political behavior of American citizens across a variety of policy areas. By examining the effects of presenting subjects with partisan cues on stated policy preferences before and after the midterm election as well as political behavior, I assess the extent to which priming and cheerleading effects characterize the phenomenon of elite influence on public opinion, as well as whether elite influence on public opinion exhibits heterogeneity across issue areas. I find that follow-the-leader effects do seem to influence both opinions and behavior, and that these results are highly variable across policies. I then discuss the next steps for this research agenda.
Oliver McClellan is a fourth year PhD candidate in American politics at Columbia University studying learning and political preference formation, as well as voter engagement and public opinion in the United States. Oliver specializes in survey and field experimental research methodology.