Personal experience and public opinion: A theory and test of conditional policy feedback

Amy E. Lerman, Katherine T. McCabe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Scopus citations


Using a regression discontinuity design, we show that personal experience with public health insurance programs exerts a causal influence on attitudes toward both Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. However, we argue that the conditional dynamics of these policy feedback effects differ from standard models of opinion formation and change. Specifically, we find that personal experience can shape preferences among those whose partisanship might otherwise make them resistant to elite messaging; in the case of support for health policy, we find effects of public programs are most pronounced among Republicans. In addition, we find that the effects of personal experience, unlike attempts to shape attitudes through elite political messaging, are concentrated among low-information voters who might otherwise not be attuned to the political environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)624-641
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2017
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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