Political Behavior, Vol. 24, No. 3, September 2002 ( 2002)
MEASUREMENT OF PARTISANSHIP
This article undertakes a comprehensive examination of the social-psychological the-
ory behind the concept of partisanship and addresses how well contemporary mea-
sures, especially the ubiquitous NES/Michigan measure, accord with contemporary
theories of measurement, attitudes, and group identification. A number of shortcom-
ings with the NES measure are discovered and more recent, psychologically informed
measures that address these shortcomings are explored. After a brief empirical dem-
onstration of the utility of these newer measures, recommendations are made for us-
ing new theory and new measures to improve our understanding of the role of parti-
sanship in influencing political behavior.
Key words: party identification; affect; cognition; social identity theory
Although party identification has had unparalleled success and support in
studies of voting behavior for more than 40 years, our common measure of
the concept is surprisingly lacking in theoretical soundness and complexity.
Not to take anything away from the utility of the Michigan/National Election
Studies (NES) measure in helping us to understand voting behavior, but it
has remained largely uninformed of four decades of development in social-
psychological theory. I argue that much of the controversy surrounding parti-
sanship (Niemi and Weisberg, 1993, 2001) stems from our attempts to exam-
ine a complex, multifaceted psychological concept with a rather blunt instru-
ment. At the root of the problem, the Michigan measure confounds the
empirically and theoretically distinct psychological concepts of attitude and of
group identity. The Michigan measure has been of enormous importance to
Steven Greene, North Carolina State University, Department of Political Science and Public
Administration, Box 8102, Raleigh, NC 27695 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
An earlier version of this paper was presented at the conference on Parties, Partisanship, and
Partisan Change at Vanderbilt University, October 25–27, 2001.
0190-9320/02/0900-0171/0 2002 Plenum Publishing Corporation