Date: 04 Jan 2014

The Role of Indifference in Split-Ticket Voting

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Abstract

Previous studies of split-ticket voting have demonstrated that partisan ambivalence—countervailing affective cross-pressure that decreases preference stability—is positively related to an individual’s likelihood of casting a split ballot. While these findings are intuitive, recent methodological work regarding the measurement of ambivalence hints that indifference—i.e. the complete absence of affective political attachments—should produce a stronger positive effect on split-ticket voting than ambivalence. If partisan considerations are not central to the self-image of indifferent voters—who have little cognitive or emotional attachments from which they draw politically-relevant information—then they should be very likely to cast split ballots given that their nominal partisan attachments are only tentatively related to electoral choice. Drawing upon this distinction, I disaggregate indifferent individuals (i.e. those voters who are neither positively nor negatively oriented towards the parties) from ambivalent ones (i.e. those voters who possess mixed or conflicting affective attachments to both parties) and demonstrate that indifference has a greater positive effect on an individual’s propensity to engage in split-ticketing. I then show how the prevailing interval-level operationalization of ambivalence underestimates the true effect of indifference on split-ticketing.