Voter turnout and candidate strategies in American elections

  • Adams J
  • Merrill S
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Abstract

Most spatial models of two-candidate competition imply that candidates have electoral incentives to present similar, centrist policies. We modify the standard Downsian model to include three observa- tions supported by empirical research on American elections: that voters are prepared to abstain if neither competitor is sufficiently attractive (abstention due to alienation) or if the candidates are insuf- ficiently differentiated (abstention due to indifference); that voters are influenced by factors such as education, race, and partisanship that are not directly tied to the candidates’ positions in the current campaign; and that voters’ nonpolicy characteristics correlate with their policy preferences. Our results suggest that voters’ turnout decisions and their nonpolicy characteristics, even if the candi- dates in the course of a campaign cannot manipulate the latter, are nonetheless necessary for under- standing candidates’ policy strategies.

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Authors

  • James Adams

  • Samuel Merrill

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