How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World

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How powerful are political parties in shaping citizens' opinions? Despite long-standing interest in the flow of influence between partisan elites and citizens, few studies to date examine how citizens react when their party changes its position on a major issue in the real world. We present a rare quasi-experimental panel study of how citizens responded when their political party suddenly reversed its position on two major and salient welfare issues in Denmark. With a five-wave panel survey collected just around these two events, we show that citizens' policy opinions changed immediately and substantially when their party switched its policy position—even when the new position went against citizens' previously held views. These findings advance the current, largely experimental literature on partisan elite influence.




Slothuus, R., & Bisgaard, M. (2021). How Political Parties Shape Public Opinion in the Real World. American Journal of Political Science, 65(4), 896–911.

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