Cross-pressured by issue ownership : a new theory of persuasion and campaign tageting

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2023-08-07

Authors

Heise, Sarah

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Abstract

In the hyper-polarized environment of modern U.S. elections, how can campaigns persuade voters? While persuasion has been considered a key part of a functioning democracy (Berelson et al, 2950, Key 1966), with stronger party attachments, how many individual voters are movable? Furter, is it worth it for campaigns to focus on persuasion when identifying and mobilizing like-minded partisans seems so much easier, cost effective, and efficient (Panagopoulos 2021)? This dissertation is focused on what persuasion might look like in the context of contemporary American electoral politics. First, I introduce a new theory of voting behavior that combines issue ownership and theories of cross-pressures. I argue that these voters are persuadable, and that campaigns can target them to increase partisan defection. Second, I find that about seven percent of Americans are cross-pressured in this way, and that they are more likely to defect on Election Day. Third, I utilize a survey experiment to explore how candidates can campaign on owned issues to increase their electoral vote share. Finally, I explore the findings from a field experiment conducted in Texas during the 2022 Gubernatorial Election.

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