Resisting the Partisan Temptation: Public Opinion on Election Laws in a Polarized Era
A commonly accepted model of public attitudes toward election rules assumes that citizens follow the cues of their preferred party’s elites and support rules that would benefit that party in elections. However, a separate literature on procedural fairness suggests that the public places a high priority on the fairness of democratic institutions. This dissertation tests which model predominates in the public’s decisions on election rules across a variety of policies and political contexts. It finds that most citizens prefer fair electoral institutions at the expense of partisan interest when that choice is made explicit, and a minority of committed partisans are driven by partisanship. While most partisans are unwilling to manipulate election rules to benefit their own party, they react negatively to attempts at manipulation by the other party. Citizens are susceptible to influence from elite messaging on election law issues but are resistant to attempts to influence their core democratic principles.
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