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VOTING BEHAVIOR THEORIES In the United States, 1940s to today.

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Presentation on theme: "VOTING BEHAVIOR THEORIES In the United States, 1940s to today."— Presentation transcript:

1 VOTING BEHAVIOR THEORIES In the United States, 1940s to today

2 Voting behavior theories Columbia school (1940s, 1950s) – Voting, The People’s Choice – Sociologists and marketing researchers – Community studies (NOT national surveys) – Emphasis on GROUPS: religion, workplace, social acquaintances – Personal influence a crucial intervening factor – Cross pressured voters choose late (if at all)

3 Voting behavior theories Michigan school (1960 onward) – The American Voter – Social psychologists, political scientists – National surveys (National Election Studies begun in 1948) – Emphasis on PARTY IDENTIFICATION as a psychological attachment – Party ID begins the “funnel of causality” leading to vote choice

4 Why believe Michigan? Party ID explains vote choice far better than all other variables (including political ideology) Survey data establishes central importance of Party ID, develops connections among other explanatory variables

5 Concerns with Michigan model 1950s = political stability – 2 presidential elections between same candidates (Eisenhower, Stevenson) – Bipartisan agreement on most foreign policy issues – Major divisions are within political parties, not between political parties – What isn’t measured can’t be evaluated (group attachments)

6 Challenges to Michigan model V.O. Key (1964): “Voters are not fools” – Electorate’s output reflects its input; hence a more substantive campaign would reflect issue-based voting more so than in 1952, 1956 = The Responsible Electorate – Even if Party ID is central explanatory factor, voters without strong Party ID decide elections (switchers vs. standpatters)

7 Challenges to Michigan model Issue voting (late 1960s onward) – The Changing American Voter – Issues matter, effects of Party ID lessened when issue stances included in predictive models – By 1980s, parties begin to sort better among political ideologies (hence issues predict party attachments better) – More people now vote on basis of single issues (though still not a large number, less than 20%)

8 Challenges to Michigan model Rochester model (rational choice) s onward – Retrospective Voting in American National Elections (1981) – voters reward incumbents who have benefited them, punish incumbents who have not – Explains congressional election patterns well – Campaign events aid in retrospective evaluations

9 Voting behavior research today Michigan runs the National Election Study Rational choice has strong proponents but weak evidence Greater emphasis on “campaign effects” or the “Three C’s” – Campaign issues (what matters now) – Perceptions of candidates (personality) – Campaign events (debates, ads, scandal) Group attachments more prominent (esp. religion)


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