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Alyssa Barone

David M. Houston, Alyssa Barone.

What happens to public opinion when prominent partisan officials intervene in education policy debates? We analyzed the results of 18 survey experiments conducted between 2009 and 2021 with nationally representative samples of U.S. adults. Each experiment explored the effect of an endorsement of a specific education policy by a high-profile partisan official on the public’s attitudes toward that policy. Our results indicated that the engagement of such officials in education policy issues typically did little to move public opinion in the direction of the cue-giver’s preferred policies. Instead, the chief consequence was increased polarization among the public along partisan lines. A key exception applied to endorsements of policies that diverged from the traditional position of the cue-giver’s own party, which tended to shift aggregate public opinion modestly in favor of those policies. Such cross-party cues also had minor de-polarizing consequences.

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