Political Behavior

, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 5-32

First online:

Construct accessibility and electoral choice

  • Richard R. LauAffiliated withDepartment of Social & Decision Sciences, Carnegie Mellon University

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Chronic accessibility refers to a long-term bias to notice, process, and have available for recall certain types of information across a variety of different stimulus objects in a variety of different situations. This paper illustrates the usefulness of studying the chronic accessibility of political constructs in the field of political behavior. The chronic accessibility of four generic political constructs are operationalized: candidates, issues, groups, and parties. The accessibility of these four political constructs is shown to be relatively stable over time and to guide the processing of information about a wide variety of political objects. Next, a voting model is tested that identifieswhich voters will rely chiefly on issue orientations, group orientations, candidate orientations, and/or party orientations in making their vote decision. The voting model is validated across two distinct ways of operationalizing the political chronicities and three different election studies spanning a 28-year period. Finally, although this paper has focused onindividual political behavior, several ways that an information processing approach could shed light on macrolevel political questions are discussed.