Roadmaps to Representation: An Experimental Study of How Voter Education Tools Affect Citizen Decision Making
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Efforts to educate citizens about the candidates and issues at stake in elections are widespread. These include distributing voter guides describing candidates’ policy views and interactive tools conveying similar information. Do these voter education tools help voters identify candidates who share their policy views? We address this question by conducting survey experiments that randomly assign a nonpartisan voter guide, political party endorsements, a spatial map showing voters their own and the candidates’ ideological positions, or both a spatial map and party endorsements. We find that each type of information strengthens the relationship between voters’ policy views and those of the candidates they choose. These effects are largest for uninformed voters. When spatial maps and party endorsements send conflicting signals, many voters choose candidates with more similar policy views, against their party’s recommendation. These results contribute to debates about citizen competence and demonstrate the efficacy of practical efforts to inform electorates.
KeywordsVoter guide Party cues Survey experiment Ideology Local elections Citizen competence
We thank participants in the “New Developments in the Study of Political Persuasion” conference at UC Irvine for valuable feedback. Thank you as well to the anonymous reviewers and the Editor for their excellent suggestions.
This research was generously funded by an Interdisciplinary Research Grant from the University of California, Davis. We are grateful to Danielle Joesten Martin for outstanding research assistance.
Compliance with Ethical Standards
All procedures involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards. Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in this study.
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