The origins of opinion of American party activists

Richard Herrera

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


In this paper, I test two hypotheses about the origin of opinion of partisan activists. The first is a rational-choice thesis that states that due to electoral considerations, activists will adopt positions on issues that correspond to where they believe voters to stand on those issues. The competing hypothesis is based on the influence of contenders for the parties' presidential nomination. This hypothesis predicts that just as candidates play a role in activating segments of the party to participate in the nomination process, they also influence the views held by those activists. Using data from the 1988 and 1992 Convention Delegate Studies, I conduct tests of these hypotheses. The results point toward a candidate-motivation explanation for the origin of opinion of party activists. The implications of these findings are that the information about politics that flows to the mass citizenry is influenced by the candidates who choose to seek the party's nomination and, in the process, activate segments of the party that will then serve as the opinion leaders in society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)237-252
Number of pages16
JournalParty Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999


  • American party activists
  • Candidate-centered politics
  • Opinion structure
  • Rational choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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