Partisan Ambivalence and Electoral Decision Making




ambivalence, campaign advertising, experiment, partisanship


American politics today is driven largely by deep divisions between Democrats and Republicans. That said, there are many people who view the opposition in an overwhelmingly negative light – but who simultaneously possess a mix of positive and negative feelings toward their own party. This paper is a response to prior research (e.g., Lavine, Johnson, and Steenbergen 2012) indicating that such ambivalence increases the probability that voters will engage in "deliberative" (or "effortful") rather than "heuristic" thinking when responding to the choices presented to them in political campaigns. We extend the logic of this argument to a hypothetical race for Congress, using data from a survey experiment to determine whether a high degree of ambivalence toward one's party makes voters more responsive to a negative attack against the candidate of that party. In fact, we find little evidence that partisan ambivalence promotes a deliberative response to negative campaign ads.


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