Party Coalitions & Partisan Behavior in the American Public

Scholars of American politics have long observed that the Democratic and Republican parties differ markedly in the types of people they attract and represent. Yet, research on the extent to which social differences between the party coalitions are consequential for citizens’ political behavior remains limited. This dissertation seeks to address this gap with three separate manuscripts. In the first study, I rely upon a series of nationally representative data sets as well as a survey experiment and demonstrate that citizens accurately perceive which social groups support each party; that affect toward various politically-aligned groups is predictive of party identification and party identification strength; and, that associating a negatively-viewed group with a party lowers evaluations of, and psychological attachment to, that party. Consistent with previous theorizing, these results provide strong evidence that affect toward politicized groups structures citizens’ partisan orientations. As such, an important implication of these findings is that the manner in which elites relate to their own party’s coalition (or, “base”) may affect partisans’ support for these elites—a proposition I test directly in the second study using a series of survey experiments as well as data from national and state-level surveys. Having found that partisans are significantly more (less) supportive of outparty (inparty) elites who demonstrate disloyalty to their party’s coalition, I report, in the third study, results from a content analysis that examined the extent to which mass media communicated relations between and within the party coalitions throughout the Obama presidency. Furthermore, I find that Republicans, while generally disinclined to consume news stories about President Obama, are particularly attracted to news stories in which Obama is reported to have alienated his political base. Taken together, the three manuscripts reveal how information regarding party coalitions can influence American public opinion, as well as how mass media supply such information to citizens. Given our present era of rising antipathy toward members of the opposing party, this dissertation offers novel contributions to our collective understanding of partisanship, motivated reasoning, and political polarization in the United States.

Committee: Jason Barabas (Chair), Stanley Feldman, Leonie Huddy, and David R. Jones (Outside Member).

Refereed Journal Articles

“Enemy or Ally? Elites, Base Relations, and Partisanship in America.” Forthcoming at Public Opinion Quarterly.

“Fight Clubs: Media Coverage of Party (Dis)Unity & Citizens’ Selective Exposure to It.” Forthcoming at Political Research Quarterly. (LINK)

“No Harm in Checking: Using Factual Manipulation Checks to Assess Attentiveness in Experiments” 2019. American Journal of Political Science 63 (1): 234-49. (with Jason Barabas) (LINK)

“Using, Experiments, Observational Data, and Content Analyses to Study Partisanship in America.” 2019. SAGE Research Methods Cases. (LINK)

“Why Can’t We Agree On ID? Partisanship, Perceptions of Fraud, and Public Support for Voter Identification Laws.” 2017. Public Opinion Quarterly. 81 (4): 943-955. (LINK)

“Organized Labor as the New Undeserving Rich? Mass Media, Class-based Anti-union Rhetoric, and Public Support for Unions in the U.S.” Forthcoming in the British Journal of Political Science (with Benjamin J. Newman). (LINK)

“Economic Inequality and Public Support for Organized Labor.” 2017. Political Research Quarterly 70 (4): 918-932. (with Benjamin J. Newman). (LINK)

“No Love for Doves? Foreign Policy and Candidate Appeal.” 2017. Social Science Quarterly 98 (5): 1659-1676. (with Helmut Norpoth). (LINK)

“Control, Accountability and Constraints: Rethinking Perceptions of Presidential Responsibility for the Economy.” 2016. Presidential Studies Quarterly 46 (2): 335-364. (LINK)

“Backlash against the ‘Big Box’: Local Small Business and Public Opinion toward Business Corporations.” 2014. Public Opinion Quarterly 78 (4): 984-1002 (with Benjamin J. Newman). (LINK)

Book Reviews

Review of Adam Seth Levine’s American Insecurity: Why Our Economic Fears Lead to Political Inaction. 2016. Journal of Politics 78 (1): e12-e13 (with Jason Barabas). (LINK)

Research Under Review and In Progress

Political Coalitions and Partisan Identity (with Lilliana Mason and Julie Wronski). Under Review.

Public Support for Voter Identification Laws (with David C. Wilson). Under Review.

Perceptions of the Wealthy (with Benjamin J. Newman). Manuscript in Preparation.

Realist Framing & International Relations (with Mary Beth Altier). Data currently being collected.

Social Groups and Partisanship (with Lilliana Mason and Julie Wronski).

Factual Manipulation Checks & Attentiveness (with Yamil R. Velez and Jason Barabas).