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Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America



Are people conservative (liberal) because they are Republicans (Democrats)? Or is it the reverse: people are Republicans (Democrats) because they are conservatives (liberals)? Though much has been said about this long-standing question, it is difficult to test because the concepts are nearly impossible to disentangle in modern America. Ideology and partisanship are highly correlated, only growing more so over time. However, the election of President Trump presents a unique opportunity to disentangle party attachment from ideological commitment. Using a research design that employs actual “conservative” and “liberal” policy statements from President Trump, we find that low-knowledge respondents, strong Republicans, Trump-approving respondents, and self-described conservatives are the most likely to behave like party loyalists by accepting the Trump cue—in either a liberal or conservative direction. These results suggest that there are a large number of party loyalists in the United States, that their claims to being a self-defined conservative are suspect, and that group loyalty is the stronger motivator of opinion than are any ideological principles.


Corresponding author

*Michael Barber, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Brigham Young University,
Jeremy C. Pope, Associate Professor of Political Science and Co-Director of the Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy, Brigham Young University,


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We are grateful to BYU and The Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy for funding this research. We would also like to thank John Holbein and Jay Goodliffe for commenting on early drafts of the paper. Replication materials can be found on Dataverse at:



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Does Party Trump Ideology? Disentangling Party and Ideology in America



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