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MacKuen, Erikson, and Stimson: Macropartisanship

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MacKuen, Erikson, and Stimson. 1989. Macropartisanship. APSR 83: 1125-1142.

The Debate

See Green et al (1998) and Erikson et al (1998). This article began the debate.

The Argument

The Received Wisdom

According to previous literature, partisanship is highly stable except for rare realignments. This is a "punctuated equilibrium" model. This view goes back to The American Voter, which discussed stable, affective bonds to parties.

Fiorina (1981), on the other hand, supposed that partisanship was more like a "running tally" of each party's qualities; this implies that approval ratings should move partisanship. The authors present a theory that resembles Fiorina's.

The New Wisdom

In fact, aggregate partisanship (e.g. the percent of people telling pollsters that they are Democrats) varies systematically (see Figure 1).

  • Y: Macropartisanship (aggregate levels of partisanship)
  • X: Consumer sentiment and presidential approval. Consumer sentiment has a more lasting effect.

Oddly, they include no discussion of generational change.