Week 4 10/1/2013 7:03:00 AM
Chapter 8 – Fiorina
Research indicates that much of electoral behavior is predictable in
Public enters the election period w/attitudes & loyalties mostly in
Most important: how close the candidates’ values & preferences are
o Favours candidates who seek the political center.
1/3 – ½ voters decide on how to vote before the primaries.
½ - 2/3 decide before the fall campaign.
Answer: Americans have a longer time horizon than the
considerations that dominate news coverage.
o Emphasize party loyalties & government performance.
NOT policy proposals/candidate personalities.
Why elections don’t matter:
Do not give regular Americans much influence.
Discouraged by the performance of political institutions.
Legal changes to open up the electoral system – limiting campaign
spending, making election laws fairer – would correct flaws.
Candidates might not keep their promises – impede voters from
Not equipped to assess candidates on policy proposals.
o Bad candidates
o Unfair media coverage
o Campaign-finance abuses
Why elections matter:
Matter more in US today than ever before
o Naturally skeptical based on the opposite diagnosis.
Good performance by gov’t suggests competent leadership.
o Voters vote for the same candidate again – why fix something
that isn’t broke.
Party identification – person’s subjective feeling of affiliation with a
Two-thirds view themselves as Democrats or Republicans.
Strong view point similar to religious view. o Learned in childhood, not as flexible, resistant to change.
o Partisanship responds but gradually.
Makes elections much more predictable.
Yellow-dog Democrats – Civil War. People wouldn’t vote for a republican
even if the Democrat nominee was a yellow dog. Strong party affiliation.
Democratic groups – African-Americans, urbanites, Catholics
Republican groups – wealthy, rural residents, southerners, white
protestants-evangelicals especially traditionally.
Gender gap – divided the political preferences of men & women.
NOT resultant from “women’s issues” – abortion – which were
viewed similarly by both genders.
o Long-standing gender differences over the use of force &
responsibility of gov’t to address social ills.
i.e. favour death penalty, difficulty in buying a gun, etc.
table on p. 175.
o Married women tend to be closer to men’s preferences.
Retrospective voting – voting on the basis of past performance.
Ronald Reagan – 1984 – “Are you better off now than 5 years ago?”
o Why fix something that isn’t broken.
o Most people tend to vote retrospectively as opposed to
They rarely change their votes unless the candidate is
The power of incumbency
More difficult to defeat a sitting politician.
# of years an incumbent is sitting in the House is
getting longer and longer.
Competition is decreasing because more states
are turning Democratic.
Republicans have more competition.
Electorates seldom choose their candidates based on policies b/c
often candidates are vague.
They cannot assess their stand because the policies maybe very
complex. Might be too long. o Exception:
Gun control, abortion, gay marriage.
They appear to be “easy” because
electorates know where they stand on these
Country where the emphasis is on the candidate & not their party, the
candidate’s nature is a major influence on how/if they are chosen.
a. Personality is rarely the most important quality.
o Traits they like are relevant to governing – intelligence,
o Electorates may enjoy a candidate who attends church, has a
loving family, etc. as opposed to an arrogant speaker.
BUT they only convince few voters.
b. Downgrade loser’s personality traits, upgrade the winners.
o Journalists explain politics in personal terms. Listing one as
c. The thought of the candidate is partly based on the political
Incumbents – sitting members of congress. Holding post.
Do not face serious opposition.
Safe seats – congressional district certain to vote for the candidate of one
Voter preferences are so one-sided that there is a possibility that a
rep of a different party never gets elected.
o Serious candidates of a minority party rarely challenge the
incumbent b/c they know they will lose.
Incumbency advantage – the electoral benefit of being an incumbent,
after taking into account other relevant traits.
Incumbent win a