Partisan Sorting and Opinion Change on Immigration and Sexist Attitudes

One important takeaway from CCES 2018 was that the liberalizing racial attitude trend–especially for Democrats–continued past 2016 into 2018. The Voter Study Group panel survey–with waves in 2011, 2016, 2017, and 2018–allows for a few important things:

  1. A panel-based check on these type of trends–what happens when one holds party identification constant–namely, checking attitude change by first wave partisan identification–and thus rule out sorting?
  2. Using other outgroup attitudes (e.g. immigrant attitudes and opinion on immigration policy) as well as separate forms of prejudice like measures that try to approximate sexism

Note: to stay consistent with the other analysis on attitudes toward outgroups (e.g. blacks and immigrants, from the perspective of whites), I’ll check for trends among whites only on both measures. 

First for sexism, which comprises six separate items and an average index of them, attitudes are very stable from 2016 to 2018 among white partisans (based on their partisanship in 2016). On average, there is a slight decline in sexism but that decline is consistent across partisanship.


When using a cross-lagged approach to test between partisan opinion change on sexism versus partisan sorting around sexism (in the mold of Lenz 2009, 2012 and Engelhardt 2018), evidence for both processes to roughly equal degrees emerges. Underlying partisanship drives sexism change but underlying sexism also drives partisanship. Both effects are very small though.


The set of immigration attitudes comprise three items and an average index, and extend back to 2011. Among 2011 partisans, the change in more liberal direction from 2011 to 2016–having more positive attitudes towards immigrants and immigration–is greatest. But at the same time, the liberalizing trend thereafter from 2016 to 2018 continues for Democrats.


Applying the same cross-lagged regression approach as before to adjudicate opinion change vs sorting, it becomes clear that opinion change occurs to a much larger degree than sorting does. Controlling for 2016 immigration attitudes, going from strongest Republican identifiers to strongest Democratic identifiers in 2016 moves 2018 average immigration opinion 0.22 points in the more liberal direction (on a 0 to 1 scale). Meanwhile, controlling for 2016 partisanship, moving from most anti-immigrant to most pro-immigrant in 2016 does affect partisanship at a statistically significant level, but the effect is not that large (0.05 points, 0-1 scale) and pales in comparison to partisanship-driven immigration change (an equality of coefficients tests shows these two effects from separate regressions are significantly different at p<.001).


3/28/19 Update:

Below are the sexism/party ID analysis graphs split by gender. See here for more discussion.



Partisan Sorting and Opinion Change on Immigration and Sexist Attitudes

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