Devra C. Moehler (1), Jeffrey Conroy-Krutz (2) & Rosario Aguilar Pariente (3)
1. Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania, dmoe...@asc.upenn.edu
2. Department of Political Science, Michigan State University, conr...@msu.edu
3. División de Estudios Políticos, Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas(CIDE), rosa...@cide.edu
Party cues are thought to be are consequential because they act as heuristics, providing information to citizens about affiliated candidates. The effects of party cues are expected to be greatest in established party systems, where party reputations are clear and party identities are longstanding. Our research findings from a new party system suggest that this conventional view is incomplete. We conducted a survey experiment days prior to the February 2011 elections in Uganda to test the effects of including party names and symbols on ballot papers. Our findings indicate that party cues induce straight-ticket voting and selection of major-party candidates rather than independents. Surprisingly, the party-cue effects are similar in magnitude to experimental results from established party systems, despite the fact that multiparty elections were only five-years old in Uganda. Furthermore, the evidence suggests that these party-cue effects are not due to learning but due to an alternative mechanism triggered by the party symbol’s inclusion on the ballot. Party cues did not have the intended effect of creating more informed voters, but they did seem to have the unintended effect of creating more partisan-minded voters. The research findings suggest that scholars be attentive to a broader range of mechanisms through which party cues alter attitudes and behaviors.