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Learning from Politics? The Causal Interplay between Government Performance and Political Ideology


Most models of public opinion assign a fundamental role to ideological predispositions. Moreover, the literature usually portrays ideology as a stable phenomenon at the individual-level, one that is mainly shaped by socio-economic class experiences and pre-adult socialisation, and that is likely to grow stronger in intensity – rather than change – over the life-course. However, less is known about the scope of, or reasons for, ideological change in adult life. This paper uses Swedish panel data to investigate the interrelation between evaluations of government performance and ideological left–right related orientations. There is some support for ‘the socialisation school’, in that ideological positions and values display considerable short-term stability, although less stability over a four-year period. Moreover, there is evidence of short-run selective perception, with those close to the government at t1 being more likely than others to form more positive performance perceptions between t1 and t2. Interestingly however, over a four-year period this tendency was not statistically significant. Moreover, there is also clear support for a ‘revisionist’ interpretation of left–right ideology. Such orientations do change at the individual level, according to how people perceive incumbent government performance, an impact which does not depend on political sophistication.

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Journal of Public Policy
  • ISSN: 0143-814X
  • EISSN: 1469-7815
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-public-policy
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