The act of voting cements political loyalties:
At least in part the answer to the question of how partisan ties develop is through the act of voting in presidential elections. In other words, our voting behavior influences our political opinions and identities. To be sure, the idea that there is a feedback loop from behavior to attitudes is nothing but new among cognitive psychologists. Take the following example. In a classic experiment run by social-psychologist Jack Brehm (1956), subjects were given a series of appliances, which they had to rate. Subjects who rated equally two objects were asked to choose one of the two. Twenty minutes after having done so, they were called to rate the items again. Interestingly, in this second round, individuals rated the chosen appliance higher than the alternative they elected not to take home.Elections work in a similar way. The manifestation of a preference into an actual behavior creates a sense of commitment, which intensifies prior preferences and in so doing it fosters group identities. Voting for a party makes people perceive themselves as prototypical supporters of their party of choice. Thus, casting a vote that is consonant with one’s prior preference should strengthen prior partisan ties, whereas a dissonant vote should weaken them. The aggregate increase in partisan strength along aging is thus the result of the fact that consonant votes outweigh dissonant ones.
Along the same lines, Emma Roller commented last week on a poll showing waning millennial support for Obama. She noted that “younger millennials dislike Obama even more than their older counterparts”:
Intuitively, you’d think younger millennials would be more supportive of Obama because his health law allows them to stay on their parents’ plan longer for free. Why is it the opposite? My working theory: older millennials are more supportive of the president is because they were around to vote for him in 2008, and so have a more visceral tie to his policies.