GOVT311 Lecture 8 Vote Choice

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					 Vote Choice

GOVT 311 Lecture 8
       Down’s theory of voting

           Candidate 1            Candidate 2

Left                     Voters                     Right

 Voters and Candidates are placed on a left-right
 ideological continuum
   Voters Choose Nearest Candidate

       Candidate 1         Candidate 2

Left                                       Right

               Voter chooses candidate 2
     For the theory to work…
• Voters must…
  – Know their own stands on issues
  – Must know the stands of the candidates
  – Must believe that the vote will affect
    government policy
          Evidence that
       Down’s Theory Works
• Voters tend to select candidate closest to
  them in presidential elections 1972-2004
  (E & T p.292).
   The Median Voter Theorem
  Both candidates make appeals to the middle (or
  median) voter in order to win the election. Explains
  why single member districts tend to produce two
  centrist political parties.
                 Candidate 1 Candidate 2

Left                                                Right
          Problem with the MVT
• Voters must link their stands, the candidates
  stands, and government policy
• Candidates do not perfectly align in the center
   –   They have ideology of their own
   –   They are a part of a larger party organization
   –   They must win primary elections
   –   They must appease donors and volunteers
• What happens when there are more than two
    Do voters know the issues?
• Remember the “Dirty Little Secret” of American
   – Persons with high political knowledge are the most
     partisan and less likely to defect to the other party.
   – Persons with low political knowledge
      • Are more likely to be swayed by campaign message.
      • Partisan identifiers with low political knowledge more likely
        to defect (p.271)
Do voters know the candidates?
• Most do, but only 74% of people could
  correctly identify Kerry was to the left of
  Bush. (E & T p.273)
• Problem: Candidates often blur issue
  differences. For example, Gore proposed
  more defense spending than Bush, which
  explains why only 53% of people put him
  to the left of Bush on this issue.
  Do Voters Choose Candidates
     on Policy Differences?
• Yes, voters who were able to link their
  policy preferences to their 2004
  presidential vote choice (E&T p.275).
• This is also true when we use “scale”
  questions (E&T p.280).
Should uniformed voters be
     allowed to vote?
          Easy vs. Hard Issues
• Easy Issues: When the link between the
  individual and the policy is clear, such as group
  benefits like Affirmative Action.
• Hard Issues: When voters much gain
• Cues: Vote for candidate based on information
  correlated with policy, such as a candidate’s
  partisanship, their race and gender, and
 Do people vote for what is best
           for them?
• Sociotropic voting – voting on issues that
  affect the national economy
• Pocketbook voting – voting on issues that
  affect persons personal finances
  Retrospective vs. Prospective
• Retrospective: using past performance to
  either punish or reward incumbents or their
  party. “Are you better off than four years
• Prospective: decide what candidates will
  do (Downs theory)
• Usually discussed in terms of the economy
     Types of economic voting
                Pocketbook     Socio-tropic

Retrospective   Did I get a    Did the
Voting          raise?         economy grow?

Prospective     Will I get a   Will the
Voting          raise?         economy grow?
      It’s the economy, stupid!
• 1992 – negative retrospective evaluation of Bush
  and economy
• 1996 – positive retrospective evaluation of
  Clinton and the economy
• 2000 – Should have been a positive retrospective
  evaluation of Gore and the economy(?)
• 2004 – Positive retrospective evaluation of Bush
  and the economy(?)
• 2008 – Negative retrospective evaluation of Bush
  (and by association Republican Party)(?)

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