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Presidents and Parties in the Public Mind$
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Gary C. Jacobson

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226589206

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2019

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226589480.001.0001

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Cognitive Views of Parties

Cognitive Views of Parties

Five Cognitive Views of Parties
Presidents and Parties in the Public Mind

Gary C. Jacobson

University of Chicago Press

This chapter explores in detail how perceptions of presidents and presidential candidates’ ideological and policy positions affect perceptions of their parties’ positions on these same dimensions. Their influence is pervasive and remarkably consistent over time, across dimensions, and among partisans. Although Americans have clear priors regarding where the parties stand on individual issues as well their location on the general left-right dimension, they adjust their beliefs according to where they place the current president or presidential candidates. The evidence comes from the ANES time series as well ANES and Cooperative Congressional Elections Studies panel studies in which respondents were asked to place themselves, the parties, and the president or presidential candidates on seven-point liberal-conservative scale and comparable scales regarding the extent of government responsibility for providing jobs and a good standard of living, the tradeoff between government spending and services, the extent of government aid to blacks, the level of defense spending, and women’s role in society. Ordinary Democrats and Republicans have developed divergent notions of where the Democratic Party and its presidents lie on the left-right spectrum, but regardless of partisanship, presidents strongly and consistently influence where people locate their parties in ideological and policy space.

Keywords:   presidents, ideology, policy positions, public opinion

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