The changing construction of partisan identity: Party stereotypes of the American electorate, 1952-1994

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science


Kristi Andersen


Party stereotypes, Partisan identity, Electorate, Stereotypes

Subject Categories

Political Science


The dissertation uses the concept of party stereotypes and self categorization theory to explore the changing nature of partisan identity. My theoretical contribution is a critique of the common characterization of partisanship as a cognitive heuristic. Self categorization theory, I argue, suggests that this understanding does not adequately capture the importance of social identity to partisanship. Using self categorization theory I proceed to explore the changing character of party stereotypes through an examination of the open-ended party likes/dislikes in the American National Election Studies. I find that the contents of party stereotypes reflect the growing independence of party stereotypes from party identification and the change from relatively homogeneous stereotypes associated with the New Deal party system to more heterogeneous stereotypes associated with the rise of independence and social issues. I argue that this greater heterogeneity leads to greater instability in contemporary party stereotypes. Finally, I argue that contemporary partisanship exhibits dynamics less characteristic of a social identity than partisanship in the 1950s.


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