The Voters’ Side of the Story
Differences in constituencies
Central tendencies and heterogeneity. Members of Congress will campaign differently depending on their district.
Fenno’s concentric circles: personal, primary, reelection, and geographic. Members of Congress have to pay attention to different parts of their constituency in different ways.
Impact on representation – may be very different depending on the MC’s campaigning style.
Basic patterns. Comparative evidence.
Investment theory of voting–nobody would vote. Anything that raises the benefits or lowers the cost should increase turnout. Voter registration, government employees, differences between candidates, education and income, mobility, weather. Close elections? Rational abstention.
Consumption theory of voting: The “D” term (duty). People vote for various reasons.
Does low turnout matter? Ideology, attitudes toward the political system, impact on the outcome (higher turnout better for challengers).
Figure -- Turnout in Presidential and Con-gressional Elections, 1896-2008
Figure -- Corrected voter turnout
Why people vote as they do
Ideology – vote for candidate closest to your ideological position (89% for Rs and 85% for Ds). Convergence of candidates doesn’t happen that much. Project Vote Smart survey.
Party Identification (seven point scale). Importance for helping shape political behavior and attitudes. Impact on voting. Rise of independents.
Issue voting. "Issue ownership" and the Democrats and Republicans. Prospective and retrospective voting.
Personal characteristics and voter contact. “Likes and dislikes.”
Demographic factors. Race, gender, income and voting.
Figure -- The Decline in Party Identification, 1952-2008
Figure – Party ID, 1984-2008
Figure – Group Voting Margins, 2008
Figure -- Group Voting Margins, 2008-2004
Midterm loss for the President’s party
Surge and decline and “withdrawn coattails.”
Ideological/partisan balancing – not much evidence for this, but it does happen to some extent.
Presidential coattails – aggregate level and individual level contradiction. Broader policy significance – why does it matter whether presidents have coattails in Congress or not?
How to measure: success rate, vanishing marginals, sophomore surge (about 7%), retirement slump, “Slurge.” Recall and recognition.
Factors explaining incumbency advantage.
Compositional – shift in the distribution of partisan strength in the electorate. More independents, fewer partisans. Independents more likely to vote for incumbents. This counts for roughly 1/3 of the change.
Behavioral – changes in the behavior of House members that lead to more electoral success (casework, money, contact with voters (going home every weekend), weak challengers, campaign finance.
Increase in the volatility of incumbent votes
Figure -- Turnover and Percent Defeated, U.S. House, 1948-2008
Figure -- Percent Defeated and Turnover, U.S. Senate, 1948-2008