A multitude of political science research assumes that the same ideological dimension guides the interaction between citizens and elites. Public opinion research has repeatedly underlined that this assumption is unlikely to apply to the entire public. In this article, I test the expectation that the interplay between exposure to public debate information and partisan identities makes citizens align their preferences with the elite ideological dimension. I develop a joint scaling model for citizens’ and legislators’ preferences that allows for heteroscedastic deviations of citizens’ policy preferences from the elite model. Applications to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study of 2008–2012 and the Senator Representation Study show that elite ideology can be a more reliable constraint on political preferences for exposed partisans, compared to unexposed non-partisans. The findings have implications for studies of party strategies, representation and political behavior that build on the assumption of shared ideological dimensions.

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