The Ambivalent Partisan: How Critical Loyalty Promotes Democracy

ISBN : 9780199772759

Howard G. Lavine; Christopher D. Johnston; Marco R. Steenbergen
320 Pages
164 x 240 mm
Pub date
Dec 2012
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Over the past half century, two overarching questions have dominated the study of mass political behavior: How do ordinary citizens form their political judgments, and how good are those judgments from a normative perspective? The authors of The Ambivalent Partisan offer a novel approach to these questions, one in which political reasoning is viewed as arising from trade-offs among three generally conflicting psychological goals: making decisions easily, getting them right, and maintaining cognitive consistency. Taking aim at decades of received wisdom, the central claim of this book is that high-quality political judgment hinges less on citizens' cognitive ability than on their willingness to temporarily suspend partisan habits and follow the "evidence" wherever it leads. This occurs most readily when citizens experience a disjuncture between their stable political identities and their contemporary evaluations of party performance, a state the authors refer to as partisan ambivalence. Drawing on both experimental and survey methods - as well as five decades of American political history - the authors demonstrate that compared to other citizens, ambivalent partisans perceive the political world accurately, form their policy preferences in a principled manner, and communicate those preferences by making issues an important component of their electoral decisions. The book's most important conclusion is that a non-trivial portion of the electorate manages to escape the vicissitudes of apathy or wanton bias, and it is these citizens - these ambivalent partisans - who reliably approximate a desirable standard of democratic citizenship.


Chapter 1 Partisan Ambivalence and the Contingent Nature of Political Judgment
Chapter 2 Getting it Right, Making it Easy, and Validating Our Partisan Commitments: A Motivational Theory of Political Judgment
Chapter 3 Matters of Conceptualization, Measurement, and Antecedents
Chapter 4 Partisan Ambivalence and Preference Formation: Experimental and Survey Evidence
Chapter 5 Ambivalence and the Partisan Perceptual Screen
Chapter 6 Ambivalent Partisans at the Polls
Chapter 7 Unmoved Mover or Rational Choice?: Ambivalence and the Dynamic Nature of Partisanship
Chapter 8 Partisan Ambivalence, Citizen Competence, and American Democracy

About the author: 

Howard Lavine is Arleen C. Carlson Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Minnesota. He is the 2004 winner of the Erik H. Erikson Award for Early Career Research Achievement in Political Psychology (from the International Society of Political Psychology), former co-editor of the journal Political Psychology, past president of the Political Psychology Organized Section of the American Political Science Association, and editor of Advances in Political Psychology and Routledge Studies in Political Psychology. He has published in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, and Political Analysis, among other publications. ; Christopher D. Johnston is Assistant Professor of Political Science at Duke University. He specializes in the study of public opinion and political psychology with a focus on motivational processes in the formation of political preferences. His research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, Public Opinion Quarterly, Political Psychology, and State Politics and Policy Quarterly.; Marco R. Steenbergen is Professor of Political Methodology at the University of Zurich. Apart from specializing in quantitative political analysis, he is also a specialist in political psychology, with a substantive focus on political behavior in Europe and the United States. He is co-author of Deliberative Politics in Action, and his articles have appeared in the American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Political Analysis, and Political Psychology, among other publications.

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