WHO TOES THE PARTY LINE? Cues, Values,
and Individual Differences
Cindy D. Kam
This article explores individual differences in citizens’ reliance on cues and values in
political thinking. It uses experimental evidence to identify which citizens are likely to
engage in heuristic processing and which citizens are likely to engage in systematic
processing in developing opinions about a novel issue. The evidence suggests that
political awareness crisply distinguishes between heuristic and systematic processors.
The less politically aware rely on party cues and not on an issue-relevant value. As
political awareness increases, reliance on party cues drops and reliance on an issue-
relevant value rises. Need for cognition fails to yield clear results. The results suggest
two routes to opinion formation: heuristic processing and systematic processing.
Political awareness, not need for cognition, predicts which route citizens will take.
Key words: public opinion; political psychology; political awareness; party cues; dual-
process models; need for cognition.
How do citizens, as ‘‘cognitive misers’’ in the political world (Bargh, 1999;
Downs, 1957; Lippmann, 1922/1997), formulate opinions given their paltry
stores of knowledge? One answer to this question comes from parties. Con-
temporary research has identiﬁed several ways in which parties inﬂuence
citizens’ political choices and information-processing. In The American
Voter, Campbell, Converse, Miller, and Stokes (1960/1980) characterize the
party as ‘‘a supplier of cues by which the individual may evaluate the ele-
ments of politics’’ (p. 128). Information about candidates’ party afﬁliations
or party ties can shape opinion-holding on candidates (Mondak, 1993a); the
direction of citizens’ preferences (Jacoby, 1988; Mondak, 1993b; Squire and
Smith, 1988); and perceptions of candidates’ issue positions (Conover and
Feldman, 1989; Feldman and Conover, 1983). Popkin (1994), for example,
Department of Political Science, University of California–Davis, One Shields Avenue, Davis,
CA 95616, USA. (e-mail: email@example.com).
Political Behavior, Vol. 27, No. 2, June 2005 (
0190-9320/05/0600-0163/0 Ó 2005 Springer ScienceþBusiness Media, Inc.