Political Behavior

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 205–227 | Cite as

Do Moderate Voters Weigh Candidates’ Ideologies? Voters’ Decision Rules in the 2010 Congressional Elections

  • James AdamsEmail author
  • Erik Engstrom
  • Danielle Joeston
  • Walt Stone
  • Jon Rogowski
  • Boris Shor
Original Paper


Models of voting behavior typically specify that all voters employ identical criteria to evaluate candidates. We argue that moderate voters weigh candidates’ policy/ideological positions far less than non-moderate voters, and we report analyses of survey data from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Election Study that substantiate these arguments. Across a wide range of models and measurement strategies, we find consistent evidence that liberal and conservative voters are substantially more responsive to candidate ideology than more centrist voters. Simply put, moderate voters appear qualitatively different from liberals and conservatives, a finding that has important implications for candidate strategies and for political representation.


Voting Elections Congress 

Supplementary material

11109_2016_9355_MOESM1_ESM.docx (18 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 18 kb)


  1. Abramson, P. R., Aldrich, J. H., & Rohde, D. W. (2012). Change and continuity in the 2008 and 2010 elections. Washington: CQ Press.Google Scholar
  2. Adams, J., Bishin, B. G., & Dow, J. K. (2004). Representation in congressional campaigns: Evidence for discounting/directional voting in U.S. Senate Elections. Journal of Politics, 66, 348–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Adams, J., & Merrill, S, I. I. I. (2008). Candidate and party strategies in two-stage elections beginning with a primary. American Journal of Political Science, 52(2), 344–359.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Allport, G. (1935). Attitudes. In M. C. Clark (Ed.), A handbook of social psychology. Worcester, MA: University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Ansolabehere, S., Rodden, J., & Snyder, J. M. (2008). The strength of issues: Using multiple measures to gauge preference stability, ideological constraint, and issue voting. American Political Science Review, 102, 215–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ansolabehere, S., Snyder, J. M., & Stewart, C, I. I. I. (2001). Candidate positioning in U.S. House elections. American Journal of Political Science, 45, 136–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Aranson, P., & Ordeshook, P. (1972). Spatial strategies for sequential elections. In R. G. Niemi & H. F. Weisberg (Eds.), Probability models of collective decision making. Columbus: Merrill.Google Scholar
  8. Bafumi, J., & Herron, M. C. (2010). Leapfrog representation and extremism: A study of American voters and their members in congress. American Political Science Review, 104, 519–542.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brown, R. D., & Hauenstein, N. M. (2005). Interrater agreement reconsidered: An alternative to the rwg indices. Organizational Research Methods, 8(2), 165–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burden, B. C. (2004). Candidate positioning in U.S. Congressional Elections. British Journal of Political Science, 34, 211–227.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Clinton, J., Jackman, S., & Rivers, D. (2004). The statistical analysis of roll call data. American Political Science Review, 98, 355–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Conover, P. J., & Feldman, S. (1981). The origins and meaning of liberal/conservative self-identifications. American Journal of Political Science, 25(4), 617–645.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Converse, P. E., & Pierce, R. (1986). Political representation in France. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Deutsch, E., Lindon, D., & Weill, P. (1966). Les Familles Politiques: Aujourd’hui en France. Paris: Les Editions de Minuit.Google Scholar
  15. Ellis, C., & Stimson, J. A. (2012). Ideology in America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Erikson, R. S., & Tedin, K. L. (2011). American public opinion. New York: Longman.Google Scholar
  17. Fiorina, M. P., Abrams, S. A., & Pope, J. C. (2004). Culture war? The Myth of a polarized America (3rd ed.). New York: Pearson Longman.Google Scholar
  18. Goren, P. (1997). Political expertise and issue voting in presidential elections. Political Research Quarterly, 50(2), 387–412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Green, D., Palmquist, B., & Schickler, E. (2002). Partisan hearts and minds: Political parties and the social identities of voters. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Grofman, B. (2004). Downs and two-party convergence. Annual Review of Political Science, 7, 25–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grynaviski, J. D., & Corrigan, B. E. (2006). Specification issues in proximity models of candidate evaluation (with issue importance). Political Analysis, 14, 393–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Huckfeldt, R., Ikeda, K., & Pappi, F. U. (2005). Patterns of disagreement in democratic politics: Comparing Germany, Japan, and the United States. American Journal of Political Science, 49, 497–514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jacoby, W. G. (1991). Ideological identification and issue attitudes. American Journal of Political Science, 35(1), 178–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Jessee, S. A. (2010). Partisan bias, political information and spatial voting in the 2008 presidential election. Journal of Politics, 72(2), 327–340.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Jessee, S. A. (2012). Ideology and spatial voting in American elections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones, B. S., & Norrander, B. (1996). The reliability of aggregated public opinion measures. American Journal of Political Science, 40(1), 295–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Key, V. (1963). Public Opinion and American Democracy. New York: Knopf.Google Scholar
  28. Kirkpatrick, J. (1975). Representation in American National Conventions: The case of 1972. British Journal of Political Science, 5, 265–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Krosnick, J. A., & Schuman, H. (1988). Attitude intensity, importance, and certainty and susceptibility to response effects. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 54(6), 940–952.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Levendusky, M. (2013). How partisan media polarize America. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lewis, J. B., & King, G. (1999). No evidence on directional vs. proximity voting. Political Analysis, 8, 21–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Liu, J. H., & Latane, B. (1998). The catastrophic link between the importance and extremity of political attitudes. Political Behavior, 20, 105–126.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Macdonald, S. E., Rabinowitz, G., & Listhaug, O. (2007). Simulating models of issue voting. Political Analysis, 15, 406–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Maestas, C. D., Buttice, M. K., & Stone, W. J. (2014). Extracting wisdom from experts and small crowds: Strategies for improving informant-based measures of political concepts. Political Analysis, 22(3), 354–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCarty, N., Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (2006). Polarized America: The dance of ideology and unequal riches. Cambridge: MIT Press.Google Scholar
  36. McClosky, H., Hoffmann, P. J., & O’Hara, R. (1960). Issue conflict and consensus among party leaders and followers. American Political Science Review, 54(2), 406–427.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Merrill, S, I. I. I., & Grofman, B. (1999). A unified theory of voting: Directional and proximity spatial models. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Millar, M. G., & Tesser, A. (1986). Effects of affective and cognitive focus on the attitude-behavior relation. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 51(2), 270–276.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Miller, W. E., & Jennings, M. K. (1987). Parties in transitions: A longitudinal study of party elites and party supporters. New York: Russell Sage.Google Scholar
  40. O’Brien, R. M. (1990). Estimating the reliability of aggregate-level variables based on individual-level characteristics. Sociological Methods and Research, 18(4), 473–504.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Owen, G., & Grofman, B. (2006). Two-stage electoral competition in two-party contests: Persistent divergence of party positions. Social Choice Welfare, 26, 547–569.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Poole, K. T., & Rosenthal, H. (1997). Congress: A political-economic history of roll call voting. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  43. Rabinowitz, G., & Macdonald, S. E. (1989). A directional theory of issue voting. American Political Science Review, 83, 93–121.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Redlawsk, D. (2002). Hot cognition or cool consideration? Testing the effects of motivated reasoning on political decision making. Journal of Politics, 64, 1021–1044.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rogowski, J. C. (2014). Electoral choice, ideological conflict, and political participation. American Journal of Political Science, 58(2), 479–494.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Sherif, M., & Hoyland, C. I. (1961). Social judgment. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  47. Shor, B., & McCarty, N. (2011). The ideological mapping of American legislatures. American Political Science Review, 105(3), 530–551.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Shor, B., & Rogowski, J. C. (Forthcoming). Ideology and the US congressional vote. Political Science Research and Methods.Google Scholar
  49. Simas, E. (2013). Proximity voting in the 2010 U.S. House elections. Electoral Studies, 32(4), 708–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Suchman, E. (1950). The intensity component in attitude and opinion research. In S. Stouffer (Ed.), Measurement and prediction. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  51. Taber, C. S., & Lodge, M. (2006). Motivated skepticism in political information processing. American Journal of Political Science, 50(3), 755–769.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tesser, A. (1978). Self-generated attitude change. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 11, 289–338.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Van Houweling, R. P., & Sniderman, P. M. (2005). The political logic of a Downsian space. Working paper.Google Scholar
  54. Warwick, P. (2004). Proximity, directionality, and the riddle of relative party extremeness. The Journal of Theoretical Politics, 16, 263–287.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Adams
    • 1
    Email author
  • Erik Engstrom
    • 1
  • Danielle Joeston
    • 1
  • Walt Stone
    • 1
  • Jon Rogowski
    • 2
  • Boris Shor
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUC DavisDavisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Washington-St. LouisSt. LouisUSA
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceGeorgetown UniversityWashingtonUSA

Personalised recommendations