Partisan Bonds: Political Reputations and Legislative Accountability

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Political scientists have long painted American voters’ dependence on partisan cues at the ballot box as a discouraging consequence of their overall ignorance about politics. Taking on this conventional wisdom, Jeffrey D. Grynaviski advances the provocative theory that voters instead rely on these cues because party brand names provide credible information about how politicians are likely to act in office, despite the weakness of formal party organization in the United States. Among the important empirical implications of his theory, which he carefully supports with rigorous data analysis, are that voter uncertainty about a party’s issue positions varies with the level of party unity it exhibits in government, that party preferences in the electorate are strongest among the most certain voters, and that party brand names have meaningful consequences for the electoral strategies of party leaders and individual candidates for office.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Grynaviski’s book makes important theoretical and empirical contributions regarding public reputations of political parties among the electorate, demonstrating potential electoral benefits from party unity and systematic consequences in public opinion from variations in party conflict in Congress. This is a book that everyone interested in American national institutions and electoral politics will want to read.”
– David W. Rohde, Ernestine Friedl Professor of Political Science, Duke University

“Jeffrey Grynaviski’s study, Partisan Bonds, is necessary reading for students of American politics. The study is an important contribution to our understanding of the interaction of parties in Congress, the electorate, and the modern era of polarized parties. To be sure, the proposition that a unified congressional party benefits at the polls will be challenged, and the president may play too small of a role in the account, but the thesis is well argued and important. The discussion of the prominent role of congressional parties and leaders in shaping the attitudes and behavior of the electorate, with feedback on the nature of the congressional parties, is entirely persuasive.”
– Steven S. Smith, Washington University, St. Louis

“Partisan Bondsis political science at its best. Grynaviski analyzes a plethora of data (election results, congressional voting scores, public opinion surveys, etc.) using multiple tools of political science (formal theory, the historical record, and multivariate analysis) to answer an important question (how parties facilitate elections) with varied data (election results, congressional voting scores, public opinion surveys, etc.). His argument that party leaders invest in party reputations to develop party labels that provide credible cues to the voters is an important corrective to the conventional wisdom. Partisan Bondsis a must-read for anyone interested – and everyone ought to be interested – in how American democracy works.”
– Sean Theriault, University of Texas at Austin

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Jeffrey D. Grynaviski received his Doctorate in Political Science from Duke University in 2002. Since that time he has been an Assistant Professor in Political Science at the University of Chicago. He was a recipient of the prestigious George A. and Eliza Gardner Howard Foundation Fellowship for the 2006–7 academic year. His previous research has been published in a range of scholarly journals, including the American Political Science Review, the Journal of Politics, Political Analysis, the Journal of Theoretical Politics, Party Politics, and Dubose Review.

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Table of Contents

1. Introduction; 2. Theory; 3. Voter learning about parties; 4. Party unity and the strength of party preferences; 5. Reconciling candidate and party brand names; 6. Brand names and party strategy; 7. Conclusion.

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