GOV 1359 Final: White House Study guide

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26 Jun 2018
Week 1
Wayne pp 244-274: Chapter 9: Understanding Presidential Elections
1. Predicting Presidential Elections
a. Statistical Models:
a.i. Models identify critical variables that have influenced past election
a.i.1. Economic: GDP, unemployment rate, new jobs created since the last election, etc
a.i.1.a. usually pretty effective, but the unfortunate fact is that to get best results, one should use
the economic conditions closest to the actual election, at which point having a poll is pretty
a.i.2. Political: Public's approval of the current president, how long the president’s party has
been in control of the white house
a.i.2.a. Incumbents usually get reelected
a.i.2.b. Because of primaries, candidates have to distinguish themselves → can be hurtful during generals
a.ii. Quantify these variables to create a model → Test on past elections to see if the models worked
a.iii. Bread and Peace model most widely used model - compares GDP with current state of foreign
a.iv. Models have been semi accurate
b. Expert Opinion or Checklist Forecasts
b.i. Amassing of “checklists” that allow political experts to make a calculated call on the winner
b.ii. takes a holistic approach to the guessing game’
b.iii. Typically, if the incumbent does well on over half of the items on the checklist, he or she will win.
b.iv. Example: Keys to the White House checklist
c. Public Opinion Polls
c.i. Measure public opinion using randomly chosen population samples and carefully constructed
interviews. They study attitudes and opinions about issues and individuals
c.ii. Reader’s Digest = sucky poll because they only sent polls to people who owned cars or a telephone →
sampling error (sample not representative of country)
c.iii. The closer the poll is to the election → the more accurate because people change their minds. Polls are
best around Labor Day
c.iv. Compiled polls = most accurate
c.v. random sampling is most important part of modern polling
c.v.1. by randomly selecting from the national poll (once done through randomly dialing
landlines), statistically, we are ensured accurate results Today’s problems with polls Despite lower cost of polls in general, conducting reliable polls has become more
expensive and difficult—media and candidates often use data differently Unrepresentative samples Low response rates (fewer landlines, people don’t respond due to caller ID) Dishonesty by respondents Unclear or biased wording of questions (see Holocaust poll) Difficulty in determining likely voters (if an overwhelming majority of Democrats were to
support Hillary Clinton, but many of them did not vote, then the poll results would be useless)
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Already have an account? Log in Difficulty estimating turnout rates (polls significantly underestimated black turnout for
President Obama in 2012)
d. Election Night Forecasts and Post-Election Analysis
d.i. Exit polling: people are asked who they voted for and why after they vote by a group of major
news organization
d.i.1. very accurate
d.ii. Early vote projection controversies: when news organization announce a “winner” early in the
day, they affect voter turnout by discouraging voters on the West Coast from casting their
d.ii.1. Gore v. Bush in 2000 = example
2. Interpreting the election results
a. Models of voting behavior
a.i. Prospective voting: voters base their vote on whether candidates share ideological views and
opinions with them - “how they will do”
a.ii. Retrospective voting: voters base their vote on how the current president lived up to his
goals/how the country is doing - “how they did do”
b. Explaining Contemporary Presidential Elections 1952-2012
b.i. 1952 -1956: The impact of personality
b.ii. 1960- 1972: The increasing importance of issues
b.ii.1. In 1960s white southern democrats hated civil rights so they voted republican
(goldwater) and northern republicans disagreed with Goldwater’s conservative policy position so
they voted democratic (Johnson)
b.ii.2. This era is defined by a split of party coalitions according to issues
b.iii. 1976 - 1996 The Evaluation of Performance:
b.iii.1. People voted very retrospectively
b.iii.1.a. Carter lost, despite being an incumbent, because of the poor shape of the country
b.iii.1.b. Bush won because Reagan had a good run in office
b.iii.1.b.i. as VP, he rode on Reagan’s coattails
b.iv. 2000 - 2012: Partisanship, Ideology, and Incumbency
b.iv.1. retrospective voting: many blamed bush for the messed up country so they voted for
Obama in 2008
b.iv.2. Obama won in 2012 because of his personality, he connected with people more than
Romney (prospective voting)
b.iv.3. Obama did better among younger, poorer and less educated voters. Additionally he got
a lot of minority votes
3. Converting Electoral Choice into Public Policy
a. The President’s Imprecise Mandate
a.i. A mandate: if a president has unique policy positions and is voted into office by a large majority
because of them, he or she is said to have a governing mandate
a.ii. Because the winner of the general often is not the winner of the popular vote, especially on the
state level, this “mandate” often does not exist
a.iii. however, they successfully claim to possess such a mandate through rhetoric, allowing them to
move forward on their plans (Obama w/ACA)
b. Expectations and Leadership
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b.i. “the coalitions of minorities variable”: when people stop liking a president after he or she is
elected due to the difference in what they say and what they do and what the effects of their
policies are
b.ii. every action the president undertakes upsets someone - as time goes by, more and more
groups are upset/offended until a vast coalition is assembled
c. The electoral coalition and governing
c.i. Non party groups play a large role in the mobilization of a broad constituency
c.i.1. Critics argue that these group buy the president and therefore the president’s views and
d. Transitioning to Government
d.i. Bush = hand off style of management
d.ii. Clinton = got into every detail
d.iii. Obama = policy visionary
US Presidential Election Forecasting
Election Prediction:
1) Structuralists: Estimate via standard regression techniques or single-equation explanatory
voting models at the national level of analysis. Vote = (presidential popularity, economic
2) Aggregators: examine vote intention directly (or indirectly) from national opinion data,
summarizing preferences from likely voters over multiple polls.
3) Synthesizers: combines properties of structuralists and aggregators, begins with an
explanation of political economy from and embed aggregated and updated polling preferences.
4) Judges: campaign observers who weigh conflicting claims of polls, models, markets, and put
in their own qualitative assessments.
Election Forecasting Theory: Advances and Obstacles
Election of 2012
Ensemble Forecasting
-forecastings from different models are averaged
Accuracy of polls
1) Electoral Cycles exist
-incumbent party will generally hold the White House for 2 or 3 terms.
-1st term incumbent parties are the most advantaged- costs of ruling increases dramatically after
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