Finding the Way Home: The Dynamics of Partisan Support in Presidential Campaigns
The tendency for lukewarm partisans to “come home” is generally regarded as the chief dynamic of presidential campaigns, but little is known about what draws these voters closer to their party’s candidate. The pattern is often taken as prima facie evidence that campaigns activate partisanship, but there is little direct evidence that party identification (PID) exerts any greater influence on candidate preference late in the campaign than it had earlier. This study uses panel surveys from two elections to uncover the mechanisms that lead partisans home. It demonstrates that past research focused on the fall campaign has missed evidence for activation of PID, which occurs as the primary phase closes. It also demonstrates that under certain conditions activation of ideology plays just as important a role in bringing partisans home as activation of PID. These findings indicate that the process whereby partisans “come home” is multi-faceted and may have nearly as much to do with ideology as with party loyalty.