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Lecture 4

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University of Waterloo
Political Science
PSCI 264
Oleg Kodolov

Week 4 10/1/2013 7:03:00 AM Chapter 8 – Fiorina  Research indicates that much of electoral behavior is predictable in advance.  Public enters the election period w/attitudes & loyalties mostly in place.  Most important: how close the candidates’ values & preferences are to thers. 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 voting.  Not equipped to assess candidates on policy proposals.  Journalists: 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 party.  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 traditionally.  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.  Resultant of: 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 prospectively.  They rarely change their votes unless the candidate is retiring.  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:  Social/cultural policy  Gun control, abortion, gay marriage.  They appear to be “easy” because electorates know where they stand on these issues.  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, integrity. 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 dignified, etc. c. The thought of the candidate is partly based on the political compatibility.  Incumbents – sitting members of congress. Holding post.  Do not face serious opposition.  Safe seats – congressional district certain to vote for the candidate of one party.  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
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