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Estimating the Effect of Elite Communications on Public Opinion Using Instrumental Variables

Author

Listed:
  • Matthew Gabel

    (Department of Political Science, University of Kentucky)

  • Kenneth Scheve

    (Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, University of Michigan)

Abstract

A central question in the study of democratic polities is the extent to which elite opinion about public policy shapes and potentially manipulates public opinion on those issues. Existing empirical estimates of the effect of elite communication on individual opinion formation are, however, characterized by a number of serious methodological problems, and consequently, there is little in the way of compelling evidence that elites actually influence individual opinions. This paper proposes an identification strategy for estimating the causal effect of elite messages on public support for European integration employing instrumental variable estimation. The paper presents three main empirical results. First, we find that more negative elite messages about European integration do indeed decrease public support for Europe. Our analysis suggests that OLS estimates that ignore the endogeneity, omitted variables, and measurement problems that typically occur in estimating the effects of elite communication are biased, underestimating the magnitude of the effect of elite messages by fifty percent. Second, we find no evidence that this effect of elite messages varies for more politically aware individuals. Third, our estimates are inconsistent with a mainstreaming effect in which political awareness increases support for Europe in those political settings in which elites have a favorable consensus on the benefits of integration. This result is in sharp contrast to the OLS analysis that incorrectly suggests a mainstreaming effect.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Gabel & Kenneth Scheve, 2005. "Estimating the Effect of Elite Communications on Public Opinion Using Instrumental Variables," Working Papers 2005-02, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifr:wpaper:2005-02
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    File URL: http://ifigr.org/publication/ifir_working_papers/IFIR-WP-2005-02.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Wildasin, David E., 2007. "Pre–Emption: Federal Statutory Intervention in State Taxation," National Tax Journal, National Tax Association;National Tax Journal, vol. 60(3), pages 649-662, September.
    2. Christos Kotsogiannis & Robert Schwager, 2006. "Fiscal Equalization and Yardstick Competition," Working Papers 2006-15, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
    3. Hikaru Ogawa & David E. Wildasin, 2009. "Think Locally, Act Locally: Spillovers, Spillbacks, and Efficient Decentralized Policymaking," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(4), pages 1206-1217, September.
    4. Robin Boadway & Jean-Francois Tremblay, 2005. "A Theory of Vertical Fiscal Imbalance," Working Papers 2006-04, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.
    5. Buettner, Thiess & Wildasin, David E., 2006. "The dynamics of municipal fiscal adjustment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 90(6-7), pages 1115-1132, August.
    6. Clifford J. Carrubba & Matthew Gabel, 2005. "Do Governments Sway European Court of Justice Decision-making?: Evidence from Government Court Briefs," Working Papers 2005-06, University of Kentucky, Institute for Federalism and Intergovernmental Relations.

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    JEL classification:

    • H77 - Public Economics - - State and Local Government; Intergovernmental Relations - - - Intergovernmental Relations; Federalism

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