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Canadian Parties Matter More Than You Think: Party and Leader Ratings Moderate Party Cue Effects

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 August 2020

Eric Guntermann*
Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science, University of California, Berkeley, 210 Barrows Hall #1950, Berkeley, CA94720-1950
Erick Lachapelle
Département de science politique, Université de Montréal, Pavillon Lionel-Groulx, C. P. 6128, succ. Centre-ville, Montréal, QCH3C 3J7
*Corresponding author. Email:


Scholars have long studied the influence of parties on citizens’ policy preferences. Experiments conducted outside Canada have convincingly shown that the cues offered by political parties can influence people’s attitudes. However, the most prominent study of party cue effects in Canada finds weak effects, concluding that Canadian parties are less influential because they are less clearly ideological than parties elsewhere. We propose that parties are actually more influential than they appear because party cue effects partly depend on variables other than partisanship, notably attitudes toward the cue-giver. This is especially true in countries like Canada with multi-party systems. We show that attitudes toward parties are not clearly reflected in partisanship in Canada. We then show that more specific measures of party and leader attitudes better account for how experimental participants react to cues than does party identification alone.



Les universitaires étudient depuis longtemps l'influence des partis sur les préférences politiques des citoyens. Des expériences menées à l'étranger ont montré de manière convaincante que les consignes données par les partis politiques peuvent influencer l'attitude des gens. Toutefois, l'étude la plus importante sur les effets des consignes données par les partis au Canada révèle des effets faibles, concluant que les partis canadiens sont moins influents parce qu'ils sont moins clairement idéologiques que les partis d'autres pays. Nous proposons que les partis sont en fait plus influents qu'ils ne le paraissent parce que les effets de leurs consignes dépendent en partie de variables autres que la partisanerie, notamment les attitudes envers le donneur de mots d'ordre. C'est particulièrement vrai dans des pays comme le Canada, qui ont un système multipartite. Nous montrons que les attitudes à l'égard des partis ne se reflètent pas clairement dans la partisanerie au Canada. Nous montrons ensuite que des mesures plus spécifiques des attitudes à l'égard des partis et des dirigeants rendent mieux compte de la façon dont les participants à l'expérience réagissent aux consignes que ne le fait la seule identification à des partis.

Research Note/Notes de recherche
Copyright © Canadian Political Science Association (l'Association canadienne de science politique) and/et la Société québécoise de science politique 2020

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