Voting vs. Thinking: Unified Partisan Voting Does Not Imply Unified Partisan Beliefs

Jeremy C. Pope
  • Brigham Young University

Abstract

The Myth of the Independent Voter crystallized views that were becoming accepted in political science and began an effort to convince the press that self-described independent voters were not truly independent, but that these “leaners” were really closet partisans. Despite the success of that book, its argument has come with a cost. Most especially, a misrepresentation of the argument can play into the myth of a deeply polarized electorate. When scrutinized closely, it becomes clear that Americans often vote in a highly partisan way, yet they are far less likely to think in a clearly partisan fashion. All partisans, but especially weak partisans and independent leaners, disagree frequently with their respective parties. Indeed, just as we no longer see independents as a united block, we should avoid making claims that partisans are united, because even though these partisans often vote alike, they do not always think alike.

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This journal provides a forum for professionally informed commentary on issues affecting contemporary American politics. This includes but is not limited to issues engaging parties, elections, and political participation; the news media, interest groups, Congress, the Presidency, and the Courts; trends in public finance, presidential popularity, congressional productivity; in contemporary, historical, or comparative perspective.

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