Political Behavior, Vol. 22, No. 3, 2000
SHORT-TERM FORCES AND PARTISANSHIP
Jonathan A. Cowden and Rose M. McDermott
One of the most intriguing aspects of the debate regarding the persistence of party
identification is that proponents of different schools of thought have each managed to
use the same quasi-experimental data and similar state of the art techniques to defend
their point of view. In this article we argue that this debate cannot be resolved with
quasi-experimental data alone and propose another method that we believe can help
us triangulate in on the correct answer: experimentation. Two experiments are per-
formed and analyzed. The first tests the hypothesis that party identification is updated
in response to the vote choice; the second tests the hypothesis that candidate evaluations
influence party choices. The results of our experiments provide some additional support
for the traditional conception of partisanship as the unmoved mover of American
Key words: party identification; short-term forces; experiment.
Despite more than 3 decade’s worth of research, scholars continue to disagree
on what it is they measure when they measure party identification. One group
contends that partisanship is an affective attachment to a group which is learned
young, persists throughout the course of the life cycle, and is exogenous with
respect to short-term political events (for instance, Campbell, Converse, Miller,
and Stokes, 1960; Green and Palmquist, 1990, 1994; Miller and Shanks, 1996).
Short-term force theorists take issue with this conception of partisans as the
unmoved movers of American politics. Relying on rational choice models of
cognition and behavior, these theorists conceptualize party identification as a
composite of short- and long-term forces, and report that party choice is updated
incrementally in response to candidate evaluations, vote choices in presidential
elections, short-term force evaluations, or relative issue positions (for instance,
Brody and Rothenberg, 1988; Converse and Markus, 1979; Fiorina, 1981;
Franklin and Jackson, 1983; Meier, 1975; Page and Jones, 1979).
Jonathan A. Cowden, Assistant Professor, Department of Government, McGraw Hall, Cornell
University, Ithaca, New York 14850 (firstname.lastname@example.org); Rose M. McDermott, Assistant Professor,
Department of Government, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York.
0190-9320/00/0900-0197$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation