Political Behavior

, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp 289–317

Issues and the presidential primary voter

  • John H. Aldrich
  • R. Michael Alvarez
Article

Abstract

Most agree that voting in presidential general elections is largely contingent on the evaluations of the candidates, issues, and parties. Yet inpresidential primary elections the determinants of voter choices are less clear. Partisanship is inconsequential, information about candidate personalities and policy positions is scarce, and a fourth factor, expectations, may influence voters. In this paper, we reconsider the influence ofpolitical issues in presidential primaries. We argue that past work has not adequately considered how issues matter in primary elections. Primaries are intraparty affairs, and the political issues that typically divide the parties are not very relevant in primaries. Instead, we focus on the policy issues each candidate chooses to emphasize in their quest for the nomination, which we call policy priorities. With data gathered about media coverage of the presidential contenders in the 1988 primaries, and using exit poll data from the 1988 Super Tuesday primaries, we show that issues, as policy priorities, do matter in presidential primary elections. This research also implies that primary campaigns matter, since information concerning the policy priorities of the candidates reaches the intended audience.

Preview

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

References

  1. Abramson, P. R., J. H. Aldrich, and D. W. Rohde (1983).Change and Continuity in the 1980 Elections, revised edition. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.Google Scholar
  2. Abramson, P. R., J. H. Aldrich, and D. W. Rohde (1987).Change and Continuity in the 1984 Elections, revised edition. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.Google Scholar
  3. Abramson, P. R., J. H. Aldrich, and D. W. Rohde (1990).Change and Continuity in the 1988 Elections. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly Press.Google Scholar
  4. Aldrich, J. H. (1980).Before the Convention: Strategies and Choices in Presidential Nomination Campaigns. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  5. Aldrich, J. H., and F. D. Nelson (1984).Linear Probability, Logit, and Probit Models. Beverly Hills: Sage Publications.Google Scholar
  6. Aldrich, J. H., J. L. Sullivan, and E. Borgida (1989). “Foreign Affairs and Issue Voting: Do Presidential Candidates Waltz Before a Blind Audience?”American Political Science Review 83: 123–142.Google Scholar
  7. Bartels, L. M. (1988).Presidential Primaries and the Dynamics of Public Choice. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brady, H. E., and R. Johnston (1987). “What's the Primary Message: Horse Race or Issue Journalism?” In G. Orren and N. Polsby (eds.),Media and Momentum. Chatham, NJ: Chatham House.Google Scholar
  9. Bruce, J. M., J. A. Clark, and J. H. Kessel (1991). “Advocacy Politics in Presidential Parties”.American Political Science Review 85: 1089–1106.Google Scholar
  10. CBS News,New York Times (1988). CBS NewNew York Times Super Tuesday Primary Election Exit Polls, 1988 [computer file]. New York: CBS News, New York Times [producer]. Ann Arbor, MI: Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research [distributor].Google Scholar
  11. Campbell, J. E. (1983). “Candidate Image Evaluations: Influence and Rationalization in Presidential Primaries”.American Politics Quarterly 11: 293–313.Google Scholar
  12. Dubin, J. A., and R. D. Rivers (1991).Statistical Software Tools. Pasadena: Dubin and Rivers Research.Google Scholar
  13. Gopoian, J. D. (1982). “Issue Preferences and Candidate Choice in Presidential Primaries”.American Journal of Political Science 26: 523–546.Google Scholar
  14. Keeter, S., and C. Zukin (1983).Uninformed Choice: The Failure of the New Presidential Nominating System. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  15. Maddala, G. S. (1983).Limited-Dependent Variables and Qualitative Variables in Econometrics. New York: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Maloney, G. (ed.) (1989).Almanac of 1988 Presidential Politics. Falls Church, VA: American Political Network.Google Scholar
  17. Marshall, T. R. (1984). “Issues, Personalities, and Presidential Primary Voters”.Social Science Quarterly 65: 750–760.Google Scholar
  18. McCullagh, P., and J. A. Nelder (1991).Generalized Linear Models. New York: Chapman and Hall.Google Scholar
  19. McFadden, D. (1976). “The Revealed Preferences of a Government Bureaucracy: Empirical Evidence”.Bell Journal of Economics 7: 55–72.Google Scholar
  20. NewsBank.NewsBank [microform], Political Development (January 1987–March 1988). New Canaan, CT: NewsBank, Inc., 1992.Google Scholar
  21. New York Times.The New York Times Index 1988: A Book of Record. New York: New York Times Company, 1989, volume 76.Google Scholar
  22. Norrander, B. (1986). “Correlates of Vote Choice in the 1980 Presidential Primaries”.Journal of Politics 48: 156–166.Google Scholar
  23. Page, B. I. (1978).Choices and Echoes in Presidential Elections: Rational Man and Electoral Democracy. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  24. Patterson, T. E. (1980).The Mass Media Election: How Americans Choose Their President. New York: Praeger.Google Scholar
  25. Poole, K. T., and H. Rosenthal (1991). “Patterns of Congressional Voting”.American Journal of Political Science 35: 228–278.Google Scholar
  26. Popkin, S. L. (1991).The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaigns. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  27. Rabinowitz, G., J. W. Prothro, and W. Jacoby (1982). “Salience as a Factor in the Impact of Issues on Candidate Evaluation.Journal of Politics 44: 41–63.Google Scholar
  28. RePass, D. E. (1971). “Issue Salience and Party Choice”.American Political Science Review 60: 389–400.Google Scholar
  29. Robertson, M. J., and M. A. Sheehan (1983).Over the Wire and on TV. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.Google Scholar
  30. Rohde, D. W. (1991).Parties and Leaders in the Postreform House. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  31. Shapiro, M. J. (1969). “Rational Political Man: A Synthesis of Economic and Social Psychological Perspectives”.American Political Science Review 63: 1106–1119.Google Scholar
  32. Stokes, D. (1963). “Spatial Models of Party Competition”.American Political Science Review 57: 368–377.Google Scholar
  33. Sundquist, J. L. (1983).Dynamics of the Party System: Alignment and Realignment of Political Parties in the United States. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution.Google Scholar
  34. Wattenberg, M. P. (1990).The Decline of American Political Parties: 1952–1988. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  35. Wattier, M. J. (1983). “The Simple Act of Voting in the 1980 Democratic Presidential Primaries”.American Politics Quarterly 11: 267–291.Google Scholar
  36. Williams, D. C., S. J. Weber, G. A. Haaland, R. H. Mueller, and R. E. Craig (1976). “Voter Decision Making in a Primary Election: An Evaluation of Three Models of Choice”.American Journal of Political Science 20: 37–49.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 1994

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Aldrich
    • 1
  • R. Michael Alvarez
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceDuke UniversityDurham
  2. 2.California Institute of TechnologyPasadena

Personalised recommendations