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Trump and the Shifting Meaning of “Conservative”: Using Activists’ Pairwise Comparisons to Measure Politicians’ Perceived Ideologies

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 January 2022

DANIEL J. HOPKINS*
Affiliation:
University of Pennsylvania, United States
HANS NOEL*
Affiliation:
Georgetown University, United States
*
Daniel J. Hopkins, Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Pennsylvania, United States, danhop@sas.upenn.edu.
Hans Noel, Associate Professor, Department of Government, Georgetown University, United States, Hans.Noel@georgetown.edu.

Abstract

Although prior scholarship has made considerable progress in measuring politicians’ positions, it has only rarely considered voters’ or activists’ perceptions of those positions. Here, we present a novel measure of U.S. senators’ perceived ideologies derived from 9,030 pairwise comparisons elicited from party activists in three 2016 YouGov surveys. By focusing on activists, we study a most-likely case for perceiving within-party ideological distinctions. We also gain empirical leverage from Donald Trump’s nomination and heterodox positions on some issues. Our measure of perceived ideology is correlated with nominate but differs in informative ways: senators with very conservative voting records were sometimes perceived as less conservative if they did not support Trump. A confirmatory test shows these trends extended into 2021. Even among activists, perceived ideology appears to be anchored by prominent people as well as policy positions.

Type
Letter
Copyright
© The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of American Political Science Association

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Hopkins and Noel Dataset

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