Partisan Feedback: Heterogeneity in Opinion Responsiveness


Do partisans respond differently to changes in public policy depending on which party controls the government? It is well established that opinions of various groups tend to move in parallel over time; however, work on partisanship shows that partisans can respond very differently to the same message. In this paper, I investigate whether partisans from different parties react the same to changes in policy, the implication of the parallel publics literature, or differently, as literature on partisanship would imply. I argue that we should see important differences in policy feedback between partisan groups, but only on salient policies that have large disagreement across partisan lines. To test this, I use the thermostatic model of opinion-policy feedback, relying on data from the 1973–2014 General Social Survey. Findings indicate that partisans react differently to policy in issue areas with relatively large disagreement. This enhances our understanding of the interaction of partisan control of government and partisanship in the opinion-policy process. I conclude by discussing some of the implications of these findings for research on public opinion and public policy.

Public Opinion Quarterly