Ambivalence, Information, and Electoral Choice
Conventional wisdom views voter choice in House elections as preordained by party identification, incumbency, and perceptions of national conditions. In an analysis of voter behavior in House elections between 1990 and 2000, we find instead that voters are quite heterogeneous. Voters who hold ambivalent partisan attitudes, who typically constitute 30% of the electorate, reduce their reliance on party identification; this effect is entirely independent of the strength of identification. Individuals holding ambivalent partisan attitudes that both lack political knowledge and are presented with little campaign stimulus are more likely to engage in economic voting. Individuals holding ambivalent partisan attitudes that either are knowledgeable about politics or are presented with stimulating campaigns are more likely to engage in ideological voting. Thus, campaign competition and national partisan competition each play a role in assuring that ordinary voters may participate meaningfully in the political process.
c1 Scott J. Basinger is Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 (email@example.com).
c2 Howard Lavine is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, NY 11794-4392 (firstname.lastname@example.org).