Theses Doctoral

Politicians or Parties? Assessing the Effects of Intraparty Conflict in the United States

McClellan, Oliver Ahlstrom

This dissertation presents the results of a series of large-N, demographically representative survey experiments conducted at different stages of the 2020 presidential election cycle, designed to test the effects of highlighting intraparty policy conflict on subjects’ political beliefs. I find politicians of both major political parties are able to persuade followers to take on counter-party policy positions with limited electoral risk, and that these persuasive effects are enduring, still detectable nine months after treatment. While subjects updated their own policy positions in response to treatment, they did not update the policy positions they prefer when selecting among hypothetical candidates, in contrast to issue voting theorists predictions. While politicians appear to be far more effective opinion leaders than parties, therefore, their persuasive abilities may not significantly alter the shape of the partisan electorate as faced by other candidates. These findings refine our scholarly understanding of individual politicians as opinion leaders in the contemporary United States, and demonstrates the challenges political parties face in checking their popular politicians.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Green, Donald P.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 15, 2021