Political Behavior

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 221–246 | Cite as

Being Certain Versus Being Right: Citizen Certainty and Accuracy of House Candidates' Ideological Orientations

  • Jeffrey W. Koch


Research on voting behavior has been reinvigorated by focusing on citizens' certainty of candidates' issue positions and ideological orientations. According to this perspective, citizens are inclined to support candidates whom they are confident possess attributes they deem important. Analysis of citizens' perceptual certainty and perceptual accuracy of 1994, 1996, and 1998 House candidates' ideological orientations reveals that many candidate characteristics (incumbency, fiscal resources) that enhance certainty fail to improve perceptual accuracy. The electoral consequence of this fact is that candidates endowed with these resources benefit from the importance of certainty to citizens without paying the electoral costs of clarifying their issue positions and ideological orientations. Similarly, several characteristics of citizens that lead to certainty reduction—gender and caring about the outcome of the election, for example—fail to improve perceptual accuracy. The implications of the empirical findings for the role of citizens' assessments of certainty in the voting decision for producing an informed electorate are considered here.

certainty perception accuracy elections ideology 


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Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jeffrey W. Koch
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceState University of New York at Geneseo, One College CircleGeneseo

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