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Elections Activate Partisanship across Countries

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

University of Georgia
Georgia State University
*Shane P. Singh, Department of International Affairs, University of Georgia,
Judd R. Thornton, Department of Political Science, Georgia State University,


It has long been argued that elections amplify partisan predispositions. We take advantage of the timing of the cross-national post-election surveys included in the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems to explore the effects that elections have on individuals’ attachments to political parties. Within these surveys, under the assumption that the dates on which respondents are interviewed are assigned independent of factors known to affect partisanship, we are able to identify the causal effects of election salience on partisan attachments. We find strong evidence that election salience increases the probability of one having a party attachment, increases the strength of attachments, and heightens the relationship between partisanship and evaluations of political actors. Empirical explorations of our identifying assumption bolster its validity. Our results substantiate the causal role that elections play in activating partisanship.

Copyright © American Political Science Association 2018 

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Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 2017 Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association and at a workshop of the Making Electoral Democracy Work project that took place in conjunction with the 2017 Meeting of the American Political Science Association. We thank Indridi Indridason and Jamie Monogan for especially helpful comments. We also gratefully acknowledge the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems for making the data available. Replication materials can be found on Dataverse at:



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