Presidents and presidential candidates serve as an important source cue for the mass public’s attitudes toward and evaluations of the political parties. Our study evaluates these dynamics during the transition from a lame duck president, Barack Obama, to a new party standard-bearer, Hillary Clinton. Our analysis takes advantage of the fact that the 2014 and 2016 Cooperative Election Study (CES) and the 2012 and 2016 American National Election Study (ANES) surveys asked respondents to evaluate both Obama, Clinton, and the Democratic Party. These data allow us to examine whether the transition from Obama to Clinton changed the primary referent for public attitudes toward the Democratic Party. Our results provide mixed evidence about a change in the relative importance of attitudes toward Clinton and Obama when the former became the nominee, and the latter was a lame duck. While the public’s view of the connection between Obama and Democratic Party’s ideological profile remained constant across time, respondents did update their affective assessments of the party in the face of a new party leader once Clinton was the nominee.
- political parties
- presidential candidates