American Politics Research, Ahead of Print.
Politicians who switch policy positions are often criticized for being inconsistent “flip-floppers”, which suggests a valence penalty for repositioning. Using a survey experiment with six treatment conditions and a sample of 2694 respondents, results show that candidates receive an increase in favorability and perceived competency when holding a consistent position on asylum seekers from the campaign to holding office. Repositioning on asylum seekers reduces favorability and perceived competency. However, in treatment conditions where the candidate is criticized for “flip-flopping” by unelected groups, candidate favorability improves relative to a treatment condition where only the repositioning is presented. These results suggest that a backfire effect might occur from criticisms. This backfire occurs on average across all respondents. This study contributes to the line of research that shows mechanisms that offset the negative effects of repositioning.