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The Reputational Premium

The Reputational Premium: A Theory of Party Identification and Policy Reasoning

Paul M. Sniderman
Edward H. Stiglitz
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 192
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  • Book Info
    The Reputational Premium
    Book Description:

    The Reputational Premiumpresents a new theory of party identification, the central concept in the study of voting. Challenging the traditional idea that voters identify with a political party out of blind emotional attachment, this pioneering book explains why party identification in contemporary American politics enables voters to make coherent policy choices.

    Standard approaches to the study of policy-based voting hold that voters choose based on the policy positions of the two candidates competing for their support. This study demonstrates that candidates can get a premium in support from the policy reputations of their parties. In particular, Paul Sniderman and Edward Stiglitz present a theory of how partisans take account of the parties' policy reputations as a function of the competing candidates' policy positions.

    A central implication of this theory of reputation-centered choices is that party identification gives candidates tremendous latitude in their policy positioning. Paradoxically, it is the party supporters who understand and are in synch with the ideological logic of the American party system who open the door to a polarized politics precisely by making the best-informed choices on offer.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-4255-1
    Subjects: Political Science
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. CHAPTER 1 Introduction (pp. 1-11)

    Arguably the deepest puzzle of democratic politics is how any substantial number of ordinary citizens can reason coherently about politics. Arguably, we say, because many, possibly even most, experts would deny that citizens can reason coherently about politics. They would parade you through a chamber of horrors. The first exhibit would feature surveys of political ignorance displaying classic findings of how little citizens know about political institutions and public affairs. Next would be a display of “non- attitudes,” illustrating how most citizens behave as if they are choosing sides on major issues by flipping a coin. This exhibit might be...

  5. CHAPTER 2 A Reputational Theory of Party Identification and Policy Reasoning (pp. 12-33)

    In this chapter, we outline a new theory of party identification and draw out its implications for a theory of spatial voting. So that all the conceptual gears and pulleys are in plain sight, we begin with the premises of our party-centered theory of spatial voting.

    Menu dependence is our starting point. Voters do not get their free and spontaneous choice of choices. They must choose from a menu of alternatives. Some mechanisms to help voters make politically consistent choices are necessary. One mechanism, in our view the primary one, is the political party system. Hence our decision to develop...

  6. CHAPTER 3 Lessons from a Sterile Downsian Environment (pp. 34-63)

    A party-centered theory of spatial reasoning is necessary to supplement candidate-centered theories, we have become persuaded. The strongest test of a theory is to stack the odds in favor of its rival and see if the evidence nonetheless supports it. Since a party-centered approach is the one that we shall argue for, our strategy is to stack the odds in favor of a candidate-centered choice. So we deliberately have created an experimental setting biased in favor of candidate-centered spatial reasoning, removing any reference to political parties or their programs. Our prediction is that, in spite of the absence of any...

  7. CHAPTER 4 The Electoral Logic of Party Reputations (pp. 64-94)

    In this chapter, we present a theory of candidate positioning. The key to our account is the policy reputations of the two political parties. Candidates must take positions consistent with the policy reputations of their parties to collect a reputational premium. Our objective accordingly is to specify the rule or rules that define “consistent with”.

    Our job is twofold. The first task is to demonstrate that programmatic party identifiers favor candidates of their party on the grounds that they represent the overall outlook of their party, independent of the specific policy positions that the candidates take.¹ The second task is...


    Pinning his rhetorical flag to his scholarly mast, V. O. Key Jr. (once) famously wrote: “The perverse and unorthodox argument of this little book is that voters are not fools.”¹ Perverse was exactly the right choice of words. In the study of public opinion, the smart money has always bet against the political competence of ordinary citizens.

    A quote from the sage of public opinion, Walter Lippmann, frequently kicks discussion off on a high literary note, something like:

    The individual man does not have opinions on all public affairs. He does not know how to direct public affairs. He does...

  9. APPENDIX A A Limit on the Influence of the Policy Reputations of Parties (pp. 110-132)
  10. APPENDIX B Study Descriptions: General Description of Methodology (pp. 133-136)
  11. References (pp. 137-142)
  12. Index (pp. 143-146)