fbpx Strategic Partisans: Electoral Motivations and Partisanship in Local Government Communication | Harvard Kennedy School

HKS Authors

See citation below for complete author information.


Politicians use their communication to present a strategic version of themselves to voters. One component of this is the ideological element of communication, which leaders can employ strategically when it is most electorally advantageous and depending on the qualities of their electorate. Using press releases from cities in the U.S., I show that these patterns of strategic communication extend to local politicians. While local politicians use communication that is distinguishable by their partisan identities, politicians engage in more or less partisan communication styles according to the electoral environment. When politicians' partisanship is well-matched to the ideological leanings of their population, their communication is easily distinguished from that of the opposite party, but when they are misaligned with their constituents' ideology, they communicate in a way that is more similar to the opposite party. These findings provide evidence that the electoral connection influences politicians strategic communication in a way that threatens accountability.


de Benedictis Kessner, Justin. "Strategic Partisans: Electoral Motivations and Partisanship in Local Government Communication." Journal of Political Institutions and Political Economy 2.2 (June 2021): 227-248.