Analyzing the Evidence Exercises

At the individual level, partisan identification is remarkably stable over time. Most people identify with a party when they are young and maintain that affiliation throughout their lives. This means that major changes in the partisan landscape are usually attributable to generational change (new voters join the electorate and thereby affect the overall partisan complexion) or realignment (an infrequent phenomenon in which a large number of individuals shift allegiances from one party to another).

The figure below from this chapter’s Analyzing the Evidence unit depicts the differences in party identification among six different generations. Note that higher (positive) values indicate greater alignment with the Democratic Party, lower (negative) values indicate greater alignment with the Republican Party, and values near zero indicate a more even split.

Cohort Party ID, 1956-2008

Describe the change in party identification that occurred between 2004 and 2008.
To what might this movement be attributed?
How did the various groups’ overall party identification vary from 2008 to 2010?
Is this movement evidence of generational change, a broader change in politics and the electorate, or something else altogether? Why?
The figure below, which also appears in your textbook’s Analyzing the Evidence unit, shows the relationship between party identification in 2006 and 2008.

Transitions from 2006 to 2008

Among partisans, what percentage of voters were “loyal” (or remained with their party)? For those who “moved,” what was the most common destination?
Now look at those who called themselves independents in 2006. What percentage of them identified with a party in 2008?
Political scientists have consistently found that studying partisan identification is best accomplished by examining respondents’ affinity for parties on a seven-point scale of intensity, as portrayed in the table below. The table also shows votes cast for president by strength of partisan attachment.i

  % Obama (Democrat) % McCain (Republican)
Strong Democrat 94 5
Weak Democrat 84 13
Independent-Democrat 90 9
Independent 51 41
Independent-Republican 17 78
Weak Republican 12 88
Strong Republican 4 96
What do these data, along with those presented earlier in this exercise, tell us about which voters are most stable in their loyalties and which are “movable”?

i Computed by the author; data from the American National Election Studies (ANES; The ANES 2008 Time Series Study [dataset]. Stanford University and the University of Michigan [producers]. 

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