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Reconstructing Past Partisanship: The Failure of the Party Identification Recall Questions

Richard G. Niemi, Richard S. Katz and David Newman
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 24, No. 4 (Nov., 1980), pp. 633-651
DOI: 10.2307/2110951
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110951
Page Count: 19
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Reconstructing Past Partisanship: The Failure of the Party Identification Recall Questions
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Abstract

The 1972/1974/1976 CPS panel and other panel studies are used to test the accuracy of reports of past party identification. The results are highly negative. First, the questions used leave serious ambiguities in the reconstruction of past partisanship. Second, there is a significant amount of internal inconsistency in respondents' reports (over 50 percent are inconsistent by one measure). Third, recall errors are frequent, especially underestimating the amount of change recorded in the panels. Fourth, aggregate reconstructions are almost certainly biased, underrepresenting the proportion of independents in the past. At a more speculative level, the results suggest that partisanship varies more over long time periods than has been generally believed.

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