The Limits of Partisan Loyalty

Jonathan Mummolo, Erik Peterson, Sean Westwood

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

25 Scopus citations


While partisan cues tend to dominate political choice, prior work shows that competing information can rival the effects of partisanship if it relates to salient political issues. But what are the limits of partisan loyalty? How much electoral leeway do co-partisan candidates have to deviate from the party line on important issues? We answer this question using conjoint survey experiments that characterize the role of partisanship relative to issues. We demonstrate a pattern of conditional party loyalty. Partisanship dominates electoral choice when elections center on low-salience issues. But while partisan loyalty is strong, it is finite: the average voter is more likely than not to vote for the co-partisan candidate until that candidate takes dissonant stances on four or more salient issues. These findings illuminate when and why partisanship fails to dominate political choice. They also suggest that, on many issues, public opinion minimally constrains politicians.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-972
Number of pages24
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


  • Party cues
  • Public opinion
  • Voting


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