Political Science US Presidential Campaigns and Their Impact
by
Andrew Reeves, David Miller, Bryant Moy
  • LAST MODIFIED: 24 July 2018
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756223-0156

Introduction

U.S. presidential campaigns dominate national media attention during increasingly long periods before election day. Presidential campaigns deliver messages by way of television, radio, mail, and online media with a goal of persuading voters to support their candidate and mobilizing supporters to turnout on election day. Early studies of the persuasiveness of campaigns were characterized by findings of minimal effects. Most voters made their minds up before the general election campaigns and they did not often change their minds once decided. Campaigns exerted little influence when it came to changing the mind of voters about whom to vote for. Still, other studies find evidence that campaigns enable learning by voters. Despite limited evidence of persuasive effects, many studies find evidence of campaign effects with respect to mobilization and turnout. Through field experiments and the randomization of get out the vote (GOTV) messaging, decades of studies have documented the ability of campaigns to increase turnout. Recent studies, sometimes in conjunction with campaigns, have brought voter files—large databases of citizens voting history sometimes supplemented with additional information—to bear on questions of voter turnout. Through the use of field experiments and with advances in data and modeling techniques, studies have increasingly identified consistent evidence that through advertisement and other mobilization efforts campaigns may successfully bring voters to the polls. In addition to the campaign’s effect on voters, we consider campaigns as institutions. We consider studies that examine the determinants of presidential campaign strategy. The effects of presidential elections are not limited to the periods before Election Day. While campaigns target voters with goals of both persuasion and mobilization, the electoral motivations driving campaigns influence governing after the last inaugural ball is over. The incentives of presidential campaigns are defined by the electoral institutions of the office. Namely, the Electoral College and the all-or-nothing allocation of electoral votes in all but two states incentivizes candidates-turned-presidents to favor the same states they targeted in campaign. We consider studies that examine how campaign forces drive the policies that presidents pursue. From federal grant spending to disaster aid, the specter of presidential campaigns persists into governing.

Research and Teaching Resources

The resources below may be used both to assist researchers new to the subject of presidential campaigns in familiarizing themselves with extant scholarship and learning about important data sources, and to aid instructors in planning courses on presidential campaigns.

General Overviews

These overviews can serve both as primers for researchers to acquaint themselves with major themes and theories pertaining to presidential campaigns and as primary texts for college-level courses. Boller 2004 includes historical accounts of each presidential election from 1789 to 2000, and discusses how presidential campaigns have changed over time. Along the same lines, Craig and Hill 2011 presents various historical and empirical accounts of the driving factors behind electoral outcomes. Campbell 2008 and Holbrook 1996 provide detailed studies of campaign effects in presidential elections from the perspectives, respectively, of minimal and not-so-minimal effects (see also Jacobson 2015). Karabell 2000 recasts Truman’s 1948 victory over Dewey as the last campaign where candidates represented the full spectrum of ideological diversity before television changed how political campaigns operated. Sides and Vavreck 2014 applies prevailing theories of presidential campaigns to the 2012 presidential election in real time. Polsby, et al. 2015 and Sides, et al. 2015 are styled as traditional textbooks providing students with key factual knowledge and theoretical perspectives important for understanding presidential campaigns.

  • Boller, Paul F. Presidential Campaigns: From George Washington to George W. Bush. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004.

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    Presents a historical account of the development of presidential elections throughout American history. Includes a chapter for each presidential election in American history from 1789 to 2000, as well as a postscript discussing major changes in the dynamics of presidential campaigns over time.

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  • Campbell, James E. The American Campaign: US Presidential Campaigns and the National Vote. College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2008.

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    Asserts that presidential election outcomes are largely the products of economic and political fundamentals, and thus are predictable far in advance of the election. Using data spanning the 1952 to 2004 presidential elections, finds that election outcomes are predicated on election-year economic conditions, presidential incumbency, and political competition between the presidential candidates, and that observed campaign effects are often attributable to these fundamental forces.

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  • Craig, Stephen, and David Hill, eds. The Electoral Challenge: Theory Meets Practice. 2d ed. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 2011.

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    An edited volume which provides various accounts of what drives electoral outcomes through a deep dive of the literature and empirical data. The second edition was updated to include the 2008 presidential election.

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  • Holbrook, Thomas M. Do Campaigns Matter? London: Sage, 1996.

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    Argues that presidential election outcomes and individual-level vote choice are influenced both by economic and political fundamentals and by campaigns. Finds that campaign events induce deviations from candidates’ baseline support, and that the effect of information on aggregate and individual-level outcomes decreases as the election becomes more proximate.

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  • Jacobson, Gary C. “How Do Campaigns Matter?” Annual Review of Political Science 18 (2015): 31–47.

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    Provides an overview of recent studies on campaign effects in the context of both presidential and non-presidential elections. Describes the differences between campaign effects in presidential and non-presidential election settings, the evidence of campaign effects for turnout and vote choice, and the types of individual-level characteristics which make voters susceptible to campaign effects.

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  • Karabell, Zachary. The Last Campaign: How Harry Truman Won the 1948 Election. New York: Vintage, 2000.

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    Recounts how Truman won reelection by pursuing a strategy of negative campaigning. Karabell argues the widespread usage of television, which shifted the ideological landscape of the country, made the 1948 election the last time presidential candidates represented the full spectrum of diverging ideological views.

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  • Polsby, Nelson, Aaron Wildavsky, Steven Schier, and David Hopkins. Presidential Elections: Strategies and Structures of American Politics. New York: Rowman & Littlefield, 2015.

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    Textbook which provides a detailed explanation of the American electoral process from the viewpoint of the key players in the electoral system. Details the strategic environment in which candidates, groups, and voters act; the rules and resources that animate presidential elections; the sequence of events that lead up and through the general election; and the public policy issues that arise out of the electoral process.

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  • Sides, John, and Lynn Vavreck. The Gamble: Choice and Chance in the 2012 Presidential Election. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2014.

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    Account of the 2012 presidential election originally serialized on The Monkey Cage while the election was ongoing. Applies political science theories and methodologies to examine the election and explain its course and outcome.

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  • Sides, John, Daron R. Shaw, Matthew Grossmann, and Keena Lipsitz. Campaigns & Elections: Rules, Reality, Strategy, Choice. 2d ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015.

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    Textbook offering a comprehensive and easy-to-read review of political campaigns and elections, including focused attention to presidential campaigns. Emphasizes four core themes in elections and campaigns: “Rules that govern the electoral process; the reality that candidates confront when a campaign begins; the strategies employed by important campaign actors; and the choices made by voters” (p. xi).

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Data Sources

Various data sources exist on a variety of aspects of presidential campaigning and their effects. The American National Election Studies, The Cooperative Congressional Election Study, and National Annenberg Election Surveys are widely used sources of individual-level survey data containing a range of political, social, and economic questions. Dave Leip’s Atlas of the U.S. Presidential Elections maintains election results going back to the first presidential election (Leip 2017). The Federal Election Commission and the Center for Responsive Politics maintain information that tracks fundraising and expenditures by candidates and interest groups. The University of Wisconsin-Madison (Wisconsin Advertising Project) and Wesleyan University (Wesleyan Media Project) record the characteristics and content of television advertisements aired in select political elections, including all presidential elections since 1996. Woolley and Peters’ The American Presidency Project contains over 100,000 archival documents of presidential speeches, statements, and public records.

Campaign Effects on Vote Choice

Whether and to what extent campaigns can influence vote choice is a long-standing question in the study of presidential campaigns. While some studies conclude that campaigns only have minimal effects since individual preferences are relatively stable during the election season and between years, other studies suggest that campaigns play an active role in persuading or informing an individual’s vote choice. The following two subsections cover these theories of minimal effects and persuasion, respectively.

Limits of Campaign Effects

The minimal effects paradigm suggests that campaigns exert negligible influence on individual-level vote choice and the outcome of presidential elections. Early research on voting behavior from the 1940s to the 1960s provides the foundation for this minimal effects perspective, suggesting that individuals’ social relationships and partisan affiliations are indicative of vote choice (e.g., Berelson, et al. 1954; Campbell, et al. 1960). Consistent with previous research, Finkel 1993 finds that party identification during the summer before the election and the perception of incumbent performance are reliable predictors of vote choice. Hill, et al. 2013, focusing on the relative strength and duration of television ads’ effects, finds that presidential advertisements have little effect on vote choice. However, though campaigns do not matter much to vote choice, they help individuals understand how their preferences map onto the candidates and parties active in the election (Gelman and King 1993).

  • Berelson, Bernard R., Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and William N. McPhee. Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1954.

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    Examines the correlates of voting behavior, finding that partisanship and social relationships reinforce preexisting political dispositions in the context of political campaigns. Campaign activity itself does not induce change in political party identification or preferences.

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  • Campbell, Angus, Phillip Converse, Warren Miller, and Donald Stokes. The American Voter. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1960.

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    Utilizing longitudinal interviews in three presidential elections, finds that party identification is the strongest predictor of vote choice and that campaigns play an insignificant role.

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  • Finkel, Steven E. “Reexamining the ‘Minimal Effects’ Model in Recent Presidential Campaigns.” Journal of Politics 55.1 (1993): 1–21.

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    Uses 1980 National Election Studies survey to show that campaigns have a relatively small effect on vote choice since more than 80 percent of an individual’s vote choice is attributable to race, party identification in the summer before the election season begins, and perception of how the incumbent is performing.

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  • Gelman, Andrew, and Gary King. “Why Are American Presidential Election Campaign Polls So Variable When Votes are So Predictable?” British Journal of Political Science 23.4 (1993): 409–451.

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    Argues that campaigns provide voters with informational cues that help them learn how their preferences align with those of the candidates, such that individuals come to support candidates who are most consistent with their enlightened preferences.

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  • Hill, Seth, James Lo, Lynn Vavreck, and John Zaller. “How Quickly We Forget: The Duration of Persuasion Effects from Mass Communication.” Political Communication 30.4 (2013): 521–547.

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    Compares the length and strength of campaign advertising effects for the 2000 presidential election and state-based elections in 2006. Finds that presidential advertisements have little effect relative to subnational campaign advertisements, but the effects of presidential ads persist longer than those of ads in subnational elections.

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Direct Persuasion of Vote Choice through Campaigns

Many studies after the 1960s found campaigns may have a marginal role in influencing individual or aggregate vote choice. Hillygus and Shields 2009 demonstrates how campaigns use “wedge issues” like abortion and gay marriage to raise the salience of issues for potential voters who are conflicted in the sense that they identify with one party/candidate but hold divergent views. Huber and Arceneaux 2007 shows that advertisements persuade but do not mobilize or learning. Others have found that television ad purchases lead to changes in aggregate preferences for candidates on a statewide level. Geer 1988 suggests that campaign debates can persuade weakly committed voters to change their vote choice. Along the same lines, Shaw 1999 found campaign appearances and media purchases increase the aggregate statewide preference toward the candidate.

  • Geer, John G. “The Effects of Presidential Debates on the Electorate’s Preferences for Candidates.” American Politics Quarterly 16.4 (1988): 486–501.

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    Using data from three-panel surveys to show the effect of presidential debates on candidate preferences. The author finds—consistent with conventional wisdom—that debates activate forces that the further ingrain preexisting preferences for candidates. His results, however, suggest that debates have changed candidate preferences among those who weakly identified with one candidate.

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  • Hillygus, D. Sunshine, and Todd G. Shields. The Persuadable Voter: Wedge Issues in Presidential Campaigns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

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    Examines how campaigns may actively persuade voters from the opposing party to vote for their candidate. Hillygus and Shields argue that presidential campaigns’ use of wedge issues and the growth of new technology—which campaigns exploit to craft targeted messages— makes it possible to persuade the “persuadable voters.”

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  • Huber, Gregory, and Kevin Arceneaux. “Identifying the Persuasive Effects of Presidential Advertising.” American Journal of Political Science 51.4 (2007): 957–977.

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    Utilizing a quasi-experimental design which focuses on individuals in non-battleground states but receives advertisements from competitive states through wide media markets, G. Huber and Arceneaux isolated the effect of advertising. Their findings suggest advertising does little to mobilize individuals, and marginally affects learning. A notable effect, however, was found on political persuasion.

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  • Shaw, Daron R. “The Effect of TV Ads and Candidate Appearances on Statewide Presidential Votes, 1988–96.” American Political Science Review 93.2 (1999): 345–361.

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    Analyzing new data on candidate appearances and television advertisement purchases, Shaw examines to what extent these factors lead to changes in statewide aggregate preferences and electoral college votes. Finding suggest that campaign activity has a direct and indirect effect on preferences and electoral votes conditioned on the percent of undecided voters and the average statewide vote between 1964 and 1984.

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Campaigns Effects on Participation

Compared to the study of campaign effects on vote choice, scholars express greater consensus in support of the ability of campaigns to influence political participation, from media advertisements to ground game organizing and door-to-door canvassing. The following subsections will explore the extent to which campaign activity can encourage or inhibit political participation.

Effect of Campaign Advertising on Participation

One of the primary activities that campaigns use to mobilize participation on a wide scale is the use of campaign advertisements. Substantial evidence exists that advertising effects are not uniform when it comes to mobilizing individuals. Using information about intention to vote before the election season, Hillygus 2005 finds advertisements can influence turnout intention for those who identified as no intent to vote. Furthermore, the content of the advertisement may serve to mobilize a particular segment of the electorate (Claibourn and Martin 2012). Many studies argue that all political advertisements do not encourage participation uniformly, but that the effect of advertisements on participation vary given the advertisement’s tone. While some studies find evidence that negative advertising mobilizes political participation (Goldstein and Freedman 2002, Clinton and Lapinski 2004), others conclude that negative advertising depresses participation (Krupnikov 2011).

  • Claibourn, Michele P., and Paul S. Martin. “Creating Constituencies: Presidential Campaigns, the Scope of Conflict, and Selective Mobilization.” Political Behavior 34.1 (2012): 27–56.

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    Using the National Annenberg Election Study and the Wisconsin Advertising Project, finds that campaigns may target messages to specific groups to stimulate participation. Certain symbolic messages (morality and crime) tend to have a stronger appeal than those that center around material messages like taxes and social programs.

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  • Clinton, Joshua D., and John S. Lapinski. “‘Targeted’ Advertising and Voter Turnout: An Experimental Study of the 2000 Presidential Election.” Journal of Politics 66.1 (2004): 69–96.

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    Challenges the idea that negative advertisements lead to a demobilization effect. Their experiment finds that no statistically distinguishable relationship exists between negative advertisements and a decrease in voter turnout. The data shows, however, little evidence that negative advertisements mobilize turnout conditioned on respondent characteristics and the content of the advertisement.

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  • Goldstein, Ken, and Paul Freedman. “Campaign Advertising and Voter Turnout: New Evidence for a Stimulation Effect.” Journal of Politics 64.3 (2002): 721–740.

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    Exploiting new data, which systematically tracks and catalogs campaign advertisements that aired in the 1996 presidential election, the authors examine the extent to which positive and negative advertisements affect voter turnout. The analysis suggests that positive advertisements have no effect while negative advertisements have a significant positive effect at mobilizing voters.

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  • Hillygus, D. Sunshine. “Campaign Effects and the Dynamics of Turnout Intention in Election 2000.” Journal of Politics 67.1 (2005): 50–68.

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    Investigates whether and how campaigns may change an individual’s intent to vote and how specific campaign activity might be more effective than others. Using data from the 2000 presidential campaign, finds that campaign activity can increase the predicted probability of intention to vote for both intended voters and nonvoters.

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  • Krupnikov, Yanna. “When Does Negativity Demobilize? Tracing the Conditional Effect of Negative Campaigning on Voter Turnout.” American Journal of Political Science 55.4 (2011): 797–813.

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    Taking into account previously ignored factors about the temporality of the intervention, negative advertisements generally have no effect. However, a significant effect appears when the advertisement is viewed after the individual has identified their preferred candidate and the negative message is directed at that candidate.

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Effect of Other Campaign Activity on Participation

Advertisements are not the only tool campaigns use to stimulate participation among the electorate. A candidate’s ground game, or grassroots/get-out-the-vote effort, is lauded by many in the media as a major factor in determining who wins presidential elections. Social scientists like Enos and Fowler 2016 observe that a strong ground game and individual voter contact can go a long way in spurring voter participation (Kramer 1970, Hillygus 2005 [cited under Effect of Campaign Advertising on Participation], Masket 2009). In line with previous research, Gerber and Green 1999 confirm the conventional wisdom that the personal touch of in-person canvassing can substantially increase voter turnout. Sides and Vavreck 2014 (cited under General Overviews) notes that Obama’s superior ground organization in the 2012 campaign led to winning more votes, but not enough to be determinative. This implies that other factors, outside of campaign activity, drive political participation. Holbrook and McClurg 2005, in examining a range of campaign-related activities and their impact, find little to no support that campaign activity like advertising purchases and number of candidate visits increases participation.

  • Enos, Ryan, and Anthony Fowler. “Aggregate Effects of Large-Scale Campaigns on Voter Turnout.” Political Science Research and Methods (2016): 1–19.

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    Exploits data on campaign activity in targeted states and cross-state media markets to determine how much campaigns increase voter turnout. For the 2012 presidential election, campaign activity in targeted states increased participation by 7 to 8 percent. Ground game organizing and individual voter contact is the main driver behind the result in the aggregate.

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  • Gerber, Alan, and Donald Green. “Does Canvassing Increase Voter Turnout? A Field Experiment.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 96.19 (1999): 10939–10942.

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    Using a randomized field experiment in New Haven, Connecticut, investigates how person-to-person canvassing influences voter turnout. Finds that the canvassing intervention increases voter turnout by 6 percent, and that the largest effect is among voters who do not identify with a specific party.

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  • Holbrook, Thomas M., and Scott D. McClurg. “The Mobilization of Core Supporters: Campaigns, Turnout, and Electoral Composition in United States Presidential Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 49.4 (2005): 689–703.

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    Focusing on changes in turnout between the 1996 and 2000 presidential elections, Holbrook and McClurg find persuasive evidence that national party monetary transfers to state and local party organizations have a significant impact on turnout, while other campaign activity like total presidential campaign visits, ad buys, and interactive effects do not have an effect.

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  • Kramer, Gerald. “The Effects of Precinct-Level Canvassing on Voter Behavior.” Public Opinion Quarterly 34 (1970): 560–572.

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    Finds that door-to-door precinct canvassing increases political participation using surveys from the 1956, 1960, and 1964 elections. Canvassing is not capable of shifting political preferences on the presidential level, or other levels of government.

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  • Masket, Seth E. “Did Obama’s Ground Game Matter? The Influence of Local Field Offices during the 2008 Presidential Election.” Public Opinion Quarterly 73.5 (2009): 1023–1039.

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    Investigates the effect of Barack Obama’s ground game in the 2008 presidential election. Finds counties where the Obama campaign created field offices manifested a considerable increase in Democratic vote share.

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Learning and Priming

In discussions of campaign effects, one controversial issue has been the debate between priming versus learning. On the one hand, many social scientists argue that campaign effects are seen primarily through priming issues in which voters respond. On the other hand, researchers like Lenz 2009 contend the perceived priming effects are actually learning. Priming occurs when the media or campaigns cause a shift in voter perceptions or vote intention by bringing attention to a specific issue or event while disregarding others. The priming theory presupposes that voters have an ingrained predisposition that may be activated to change evaluation or preference of candidates. Berelson, et al. 1954 (cited under Limits of Campaign Effects) cites how Truman won the election by using campaign messages to shift the electorate’s thinking from international issues to domestic policy. Campaigns’ use of priming has been well documented in internal memos and analysis of polls (Druckman, et al. 2004, cited under Messaging). Claibourn 2008 shows how candidates can use repetitive campaign advertisements to solidify possible long-term connections between the issue and the candidate. Other research suggests that subtle racial cues have robust priming effects which affect candidate preferences (Valentino, et al. 2002). Lenz 2009 argues that what previous scholars have labeled priming is actually learning because campaigns provide information about candidates and then the voter adopts the positions of the preferred candidate. Hillygus and Jackman 2003 and Holbrook 1999 show that debates—and other campaign events—also serve as the mechanism to increase political learning in the electorate.

  • Claibourn, Michele. “Making a Connection: Repetition and Priming in Presidential Campaigns.” Journal of Politics 70.4 (October 2008): 1142–1159.

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    Argues that candidate’s focus on specific issues through repetitive campaign advertisements (frequency) facilitates the long-term connection between that candidate and the issue-area. This long-term priming effect might make it easier for citizens to hold leaders accountable in the future.

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  • Hillygus, D. Sunshine, and Simon Jackman. “Voter Decision Making in Election 2000: Campaign Effects, Partisan Activation, and the Clinton Legacy.” American Journal of Political Science 47.4 (2003): 583–596.

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    Shows that campaign events (debates and convention) stimulated both partisan activation and persuasion in the 2000 presidential election conditioned on partisan disposition, ingrained political preferences, and the overall political context. Groups that saw the largest effects were mismatched partisans, undecided voters, and independents. Debates and conventions affected individual differently; while the convention increased Gore’s support, debates increased Bush’s support.

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  • Holbrook, Thomas M. “Political Learning from Presidential Debates.” Political Behavior 21.1 (1999): 67–89.

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    Argues that voters’ information levels increase as a result of debates. The open-ended questions and analysis suggest that the largest learning effects are seen in the first debate for most individuals. Learning effects are concentrated among those who already have high political engagement.

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  • Lenz, Gabriel S. “Learning and Opinion Change, not Priming: Reconsidering the Priming Hypothesis.” American Journal of Political Science 53.4 (2009): 821–837.

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    Finds that campaign advertising only appears to prime voters, but it facilitates learning instead. Messages inform voters about candidates’ positions on the issue and then individuals assume the preferred candidates’ position.

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  • Valentino, Nicholas A., Vincent Hutchings, and Ismail K. White. “Cues That Matter: How Political Ads Prime Racial Attitudes During Campaigns.” American Political Science Review 96.1 (2002): 75–90.

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    Provides experimental evidence that subtle racial cues in campaign advertisements can prime viewers and predict candidate preferences. Government taxation and expenditure language invoke racial considerations, especially when connecting blacks with the undeserving narrative. The findings also suggest that counter-stereotypical messages about blacks can subdue previous negative racial priming.

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Consequences of Presidential Elections

While the clearest consequence of a presidential election is the immediate outcome—which candidate wins—the results of presidential elections and the electoral institutions within which presidents and presidential aspirants compete influence the behavior of political elites and citizens in the mass public, the results of other elections, and a wide range of policy outcomes. The following subsections elaborate on the multifaceted ways in which presidential elections affect other components of the American political system.

Policymaking and Policy Outcomes

Presidential elections exert substantial influence on policymaking and policy outcomes because they both formally empower an individual as president, replete with formal and informal policymaking powers, and provide other political actors with a strong signal of public opinion. Consequently, newly elected presidents often experience greater legislative success than they do later in their terms (Dominguez 2005). Presidents also experience greater policymaking success when their election has enabled them to credibly claim a mandate (Conley 2001) or has convinced other political actors that they enjoy broad public support (Beckmann and Godfrey 2007; Derouen, et al. 2005; Grossback, et al. 2005; Peterson, et al. 2003; Stephenson 1999). However, Azari 2014 argues that mandate claims do not enable greater policymaking success, but instead compensate for the president’s difficulty in enacting preferred policies due to political polarization and the diminished legitimacy of the presidency since the 1970s (see also Villalobos, et al. 2012). Differently, Snowberg, et al. 2007 asserts that presidential elections influence the behavior of nonpolitical economic actors, as economic indicators tend to rise (fall) in the immediate aftermath of a Republican (Democratic) victory in anticipation of the policies likely to be adopted by the winner.

  • Azari, Julia R. Delivering the People’s Message: The Changing Politics of the Presidential Mandate. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2014.

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    Seeks to explain the increase in presidents’ appeals to electoral mandates since the 1970s. Argues that presidents use mandate rhetoric to pressure recalcitrant partisan opponents when polarization is high and to compensate for a decrease in the legitimacy of the presidency after the Vietnam War and Watergate. Also asserts that mandate rhetoric has shifted from universalistic to partisan over time in order to mobilize copartisan supporters.

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  • Beckmann, Matthew N., and Joseph Godfrey. “The Policy Opportunities in Presidential Honeymoons.” Political Research Quarterly 60.2 (2007): 250–262.

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    Presents a formal theoretic model of “honeymoon politics” which asserts that presidents experience greater legislative success early in their terms because members of Congress incorporate their constituents’ electoral support for the president into their own preferences.

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  • Conley, Patricia Heidotting. Presidential Mandates: How Elections Shape the National Agenda. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001.

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    Argues that presidents use information provided by election results to determine if they can credibly claim a mandate. Using a game theoretic model, quantitative analysis of presidential mandate claims from 1828–1996, and qualitative case studies, finds that presidents are likely to declare mandates when they perceive high levels of public support or when they perceive both moderate levels of public support and high levels of support in Congress.

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  • Derouen, Karl, Jeffrey S. Peake, and Kenneth Ward. “Presidential Mandates and the Dynamics of Senate Advice and Consent, 1885–1996.” American Politics Research 33.1 (2005): 106–131.

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    Finds that presidents obtain Senate confirmation for their appointees more quickly when elected by a large margin or when claiming a mandate.

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  • Dominguez, Casey Byrne Knudsen. “Is It a Honeymoon? An Empirical Investigation of the President’s First Hundred Days.” Congress & the Presidency: A Journal of Capital Studies 32.1 (2005): 63–78.

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    Explores the existence of the “honeymoon effect” by comparing the presidents’ legislative success in the first 100 days of the term to the same set of 100 calendar days in subsequent years of presidents’ terms. Finds that presidents are more successful in passing preferred legislation in the first 100 days of the first year of the term, and that this effect is stronger under divided government.

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  • Grossback, Lawrence J., David A. M. Peterson, and James A. Stimson. “Comparing Competing Theories on the Causes of Mandate Perceptions.” American Journal of Political Science 49.2 (2005): 406–419.

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    Examines whether congressional support for the president after a mandate election increases because the president declares a mandate (Conley 2001) or because members of Congress perceive the resident’s electoral victory to provide him with a mandate (Peterson, et al. 2003). Finds mixed support for the former president-driven model, but consistent support for the latter, public-driven model.

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  • Peterson, David A. M., Lawrence J. Grossback, James A. Stimson, and Amy Gangl. “Congressional Response to Mandate Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 47.3 (2003): 411–426.

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    Following an election perceived to grant the president a mandate, members of Congress tend to support the president on roll call votes at higher rates than they otherwise would. However, as temporal distance from the president’s inauguration increases, members of Congress return to their normal rates of support for the president’s policies.

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  • Snowberg, Erik, Justin Wolfers, and Eric Zitzewitz. “Partisan Impacts on the Economy: Evidence from Prediction Markets and Close Elections.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 122.2 (2007): 807–829.

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    Focusing on fluctuations in economic indicators such as interest rates and equity prices, finds that presidential election outcomes influence the economy. Since 1880, financial markets have improved when Republicans won the White House.

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  • Stephenson, D. Grier. Campaigns and the Court: The US Supreme Court in Presidential Elections. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

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    Details how presidential candidates use the Supreme Court as a campaign issue, how the Supreme Court can influence electoral outcomes, and how electoral outcomes affect future Supreme Court behavior. Argues that court-curbing activity increases if the Court was on the “losing side” of the election and the Court issues rulings at odds with the preferences of the new majority coalition. Also suggests that the Court will move its policy outcomes toward those of the new majority coalition if it was on the losing side of a realigning election.

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  • Villalobos, José D., Justin S. Vaughn, and Julia R. Azari. “Politics or Policy? How Rhetoric Matters to Presidential Leadership of Congress.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 42.3 (2012): 549–576.

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    Examines how the types of rhetorical appeals made by the president condition legislative success. Finds that messages which focus on a president’s electoral mandate do not influence legislative success.

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Coattails

Given that presidential elections share the ballot with races for many other lower offices, scholars have long argued that presidential elections influence the outcomes of these down-ballot races—namely, that candidates for lower offices can “ride the coattails” of a successful presidential candidate. Most extant studies of presidential coattails focus on the consequences of presidential elections for congressional elections. Miller 1955 warns that studies of presidential coattails must carefully consider the measurement of this effect; in order for a coattails effect to be present, voters must have voted for down-ballot copartisans of the president because of the president’s personal appeal. While Calvert and Ferejohn 1983 and Ferejohn and Calvert 1984 suggest that the presidential coattails effect weakened in the 1960s and 1970s, Mattei and Glasgow 2005 finds that the coattails effect has been consistently strong in more recent decades. Mattei and Glasgow 2005 and Mondak 1993 argue that the coattails effect is strongest in open-seat congressional races, as voters in these elections lack information about the candidates and use the partisanship of their preferred presidential candidate as a heuristic cue. Erikson 2016 asserts that the coattails effect weakens when a given presidential candidate is expected to win as voters seek to balance the president’s power by electing non-copartisans to Congress. Campbell 2015 posits that the general pattern by which the president’s party gains seats in Congress in presidential elections and loses seats in midterm elections is a consequence of higher turnout rates among presidential copartisans in the electorate and higher rates of support for the president’s party among independents when the president is on the ballot.

  • Calvert, Randall L., and John A. Ferejohn. “Coattail Voting in Recent Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 77.2 (1983): 407–419.

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    Examines how voters’ preferences over presidential candidates influences their votes for congressional candidates. Finds that voters’ preferences in congressional elections are conditioned by their evaluations of the presidential candidates, but that this effect declined between 1956 and 1980.

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  • Campbell, James E. The Presidential Pulse of Congressional Elections. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2015.

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    Seeks to explain the stylized pattern of the president’s party gaining seats in Congress in presidential elections, but losing seats in midterm elections. Finds that the president’s party performs better when president is on the ballot because presidential copartisans in the mass electorate turn out at higher rates and because independent voters swing to the president’s party.

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  • Erikson, Robert S. “Congressional Elections in Presidential Years: Presidential Coattails and Strategic Voting.” Legislative Studies Quarterly 41.3 (2016): 551–574.

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    Argues that the effect of presidential coattails is conditioned by voters’ expectations of electoral outcomes; while voters who prefer a given presidential candidate are more likely to vote for the candidate’s copartisans in congressional races, they will seek to balance the president’s power by strategically voting for non-copartisan congressional candidates if their preferred presidential candidate is expected to win the election. Finds that the share of congressional seats won by the president’s party increases as the president’s own national vote share increases, but that the share of congressional seats won by presidential copartisans declines if the presidential candidate was expected to win.

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  • Ferejohn, John A., and Randall L. Calvert. “Presidential Coattails in Historical Perspective.” American Journal of Political Science (1984): 127–146.

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    Investigates changes in the presidential coattails effect for all House elections between 1868 and 1980. Concludes that the decline in the coattails effect in the preceding decades is a consequence of voters’ decreased propensity to use evaluations of presidential candidates to inform their vote choice in congressional elections, rather than a decline in the swing ratio.

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  • Mattei, Franco, and Joshua Glasgow. “Presidential Coattails, Incumbency Advantage, and Open Seats: A District-Level Analysis of the 1976–2000 US House Elections.” Electoral Studies 24.4 (2005): 619–641.

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    Examines patterns of presidential coattails effects in congressional elections from 1976 to 2000. Finds that coattails effects did not decline over this period, and that coattails effects manifest most strongly in open-seat races.

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  • Miller, Warren E. “Presidential Coattails: A Study in Political Myth and Methodology.” Public Opinion Quarterly 19.4 (1955): 353–368.

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    Presents an empirical framework within which to assess presidential coattails effects. Argues that a coattails effect exists only if the “personal appeal of the [presidential] candidate” induces voters to vote for presidential copartisans in congressional races (p. 358). Finds that apparent coattails effects in the 1952 presidential election are a consequence of other voter considerations, such as copartisanship, rather than voters’ evaluations of the presidential candidates.

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  • Mondak, Jeffery J. “Presidential Coattails and Open Seats the District-Level Impact of Heuristic Processing.” American Politics Quarterly 21.3 (1993): 307–319.

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    Argues that voters use their presidential preference as a heuristic with which to inform their congressional vote choice, and that the influence of this heuristic is strongest when voters lack information about congressional candidates. Finds that the magnitude of the presidential coattails effect varies across congressional districts, and that the effect of presidential preferences is largest on congressional candidate vote choice in open-seat elections.

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Individual-Level Attitudes and Emotions

While presidential elections are perhaps most visibly consequential for policy outcomes and the composition of political institutions, electoral outcomes also have effects on the individual-level attitudes and emotions of citizens. Generally, these effects are conditioned by the success or defeat of individuals’ preferred candidates; individuals who supported the losing candidate tend to experience adverse consequences as a result of the election outcome, as they exhibit diminished perceptions of political efficacy (Clarke and Acock 1989) and political trust (Anderson and LoTempio 2002; Craig, et al. 2006), are more likely to experience physiological stress (Stanton, et al. 2010), and are more likely to support reforming the primary and national election processes (Karp and Tolbert 2010). Beasley and Joslyn 2001 finds that supporters of the losing candidate update their post-election beliefs by reducing the difference between the candidates’ relative attractiveness in order to feel more comfortable with the outcome. Differently, Claibourn 2011 argues that presidential elections shape how citizens evaluate the winning candidate once in office, as individuals’ assessments of the president’s performance are weighted more heavily by handling of the issues which the president emphasized during the campaign.

  • Anderson, Christopher J., and Andrew J. LoTempio. “Winning, Losing and Political Trust in America.” British Journal of Political Science 32.2 (2002): 335–351.

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    Finds that voters whose preferred presidential candidate loses the election express lower levels of political trust then do voters who supported the winning candidate. Further finds that supporting congressional candidates whose party wins a majority in the House or Senate does not dilute the effect of supporting a losing presidential candidate.

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  • Beasley, Ryan K., and Mark R. Joslyn. “Cognitive Dissonance and Post-Decision Attitude Change in Six Presidential Elections.” Political Psychology 22.3 (2001): 521–540.

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    Examines how voters update their political attitudes concerning the presidential candidates after the election takes place. Finds that voters perceive a greater difference in the candidates’ relative attractiveness after the election than nonvoters, that voters who supported the losing candidate perceive less of a gap in the attractiveness of the two candidates after the election than do voters who supported the winning candidate, and that voters who perceived both candidates to be attractive prior to the election express a more substantial difference in the attractiveness of the two candidates after the election.

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  • Claibourn, Michele P. Presidential Campaigns and Presidential Accountability. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2011.

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    Argues that campaigns facilitate accountability by priming voters to evaluate the president’s performance on the basis of his campaign priorities. Demonstrates that voters associate candidates with the issues they focus on during the campaign, and that presidential approval is weighed more heavily by the handling of issues the president emphasized as a candidate.

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  • Clarke, Harold D., and Alan C. Acock. “National Elections and Political Attitudes: The Case of Political Efficacy.” British Journal of Political Science 19.4 (1989): 551–562.

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    In contrast to prior studies, finds that participation in presidential elections only increases citizens’ sense of political efficacy if their preferred candidate wins the election.

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  • Craig, Stephen C., Michael D. Martinez, Jason Gainous, and James G. Kane. “Winners, Losers, and Election Context: Voter Responses to the 2000 Presidential Election.” Political Research Quarterly 59.4 (2006): 579–592.

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    Demonstrates that voters who supported the losing presidential candidate express lower levels of political trust, satisfaction with democracy, and confidence in the government’s responsiveness to citizen preferences. Further demonstrates that these effects are conditioned by voters’ perceptions of the fairness of the election, satisfaction with the candidates, and agreement that the election results constitute a mandate.

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  • Karp, Jeffrey A., and Caroline J. Tolbert. “Polls and Elections: Support for Nationalizing Presidential Elections.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 40.4 (2010): 771–793.

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    Explores the determinants of individual-level support for reform of the electoral procedures used in the presidential nominating process and general election. Finds that individuals who supported losing candidates and who are disadvantaged by the extant electoral processes—those whose states hold caucuses and primaries later in the nominating season or who live in larger states—are more likely to support a national primary system and electing the president by popular vote.

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  • Stanton, Steven J., Kevin S. LaBar, Ekjyot K. Saini, Cynthia M. Kuhn, and Jacinta C. Beehner. “Stressful Politics: Voters’ Cortisol Responses to the Outcome of the 2008 United States Presidential Election.” Psychoneuroendocrinology 35.5 (2010): 768–774.

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    Investigates the physiological effect of presidential election results on voters. Finds that voters who supported the losing candidate in the 2008 election, John McCain, experienced increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol immediately after the election results were announced, but that voters who supported the winning candidate, Barack Obama, exhibited stable cortisol levels over the same period of time.

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Particularism

Scholars long conceived of the president as a universalistic actor who represents the nation as a whole and promotes the general welfare of all. However, recent research argues that presidents, like members of Congress, are electorally motivated actors who pursue their electoral goals through particularistic behavior that benefits select constituencies, and that the president reaps electoral rewards for this particularism. Thus, presidential elections shape policy outcomes by incentivizing presidents to strategically distribute particularistic goods to electorally important constituencies. Reeves 2011 finds that presidents are more likely to approve requests for disaster declarations when they originate from electorally important states, and that presidents receive higher shares of the vote in states receiving these declarations (see also Gasper and Reeves 2011). Kriner and Reeves 2015a extends this line of inquiry to encompass other federal policies over which the president can exert unilateral influence, such as the allocation of federal spending to counties, and finds similarly that presidents shape policies to disproportionately benefit copartisan supporters in swing states and core states, and that citizens rewards presidents for this particularistic behavior (see also Hudak 2014; Kriner and Reeves 2012; Kriner and Reeves 2015b; Lowande, et al. 2017). Dynes and Huber 2015 clarifies that particularistic policies are designed to benefit copartisans of the president in the mass electorate, rather than to support the president’s copartisans in Congress. Rogowski 2016 finds that presidential particularism is not a recent phenomenon facilitated by the growth of the power of the presidency in the 20th century, but instead existed in earlier periods characterized by congressional dominance over federal policymaking.

  • Dynes, Adam M., and Gregory A. Huber. “Partisanship and the Allocation of Federal Spending: Do Same-Party Legislators or Voters Benefit from Shared Party Affiliation with the President and House Majority?” American Political Science Review 109.1 (2015): 172–186.

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    Looks to discern whether House districts held by presidential copartisans or members of the House majority receive more federal spending because of their copartisan relationship with the president or the House majority, or because of the partisan composition of voters in the districts. Finds that the president and the House majority direct spending toward districts with stronger copartisan support in the mass electorate, rather than toward copartisan members.

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  • Gasper, John T., and Andrew Reeves. “Make It Rain? Retrospection and the Attentive Electorate in the Context of Natural Disasters.” American Journal of Political Science 55.2 (2011): 340–355.

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    Examines the electoral consequences of natural disasters and the subsequent request for and approval of disaster declarations for governors and presidents. Finds that both governors and presidents are punished electorally for recent natural disasters, but that governors and presidents can effectively obviate these negative consequences by requesting and approving disaster declarations, respectively.

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  • Hudak, John. Presidential Pork: White House Influence Over the Distribution of Federal Grants. Washington, DC: Brookings Institution Press, 2014.

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    Argues that presidents seek to promote their electoral goals by allocating larger amounts of federal grants to swing states. Utilizes quantitative data and elite surveys and interviews to help elucidate how the president exerts influence over the bureaucracy to direct the allocation of federal grants.

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  • Kriner, Douglas L., and Andrew Reeves. “The Influence of Federal Spending on Presidential Elections.” American Political Science Review 106.2 (2012): 348–366.

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    Explores the effect of federal spending on vote choice and aggregate outcomes in presidential elections. Using both county- and individual-level data, finds that the amount of federal spending a county receives is directly related to electoral support for the incumbent president or the presidential candidate who is a copartisan of the president.

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  • Kriner, Douglas L., and Andrew Reeves. “Presidential Particularism and Divide-the-Dollar Politics.” American Political Science Review 109.1 (2015a): 155–171.

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    Uses federal spending data to demonstrate that presidents allocate federal spending in a particularistic manner, directing more money to counties in swing states and core states that provided strong support to the president in past elections. Further finds that particularistic spending behavior for counties in swing states is exacerbated in years proximate to a presidential election, and these swing state counties benefit the most from presidential particularism.

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  • Kriner, Douglas L., and Andrew Reeves. The Particularistic President: Executive Branch Politics and Political Inequality. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015b.

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    Examining allocations of federal spending, the provision of federal disaster aid, and patterns of military base closings, transportation grants, and trade protections, finds that presidents particularistically seek to provide benefits to copartisan supporters in core and swing states who are critical to presidents’ electoral interests. Further demonstrates that voters in areas receiving particularistic benefits reward the president for his behavior.

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  • Lowande, Kenneth S., Jeffery A. Jenkins, and Andrew J. Clarke. “Presidential Particularism and US Trade Politics.” Political Science Research and Methods (2017): 1–17.

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    Finds that presidents use their authority to unilaterally modify trade protections in ways that enhance their electoral fortunes. Presidents are more likely to promulgate protectionistic unilateral directives in election years, and tailor these directives to benefit industries important to states in which the president does not have strong support.

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  • Reeves, Andrew. “Political Disaster: Unilateral Powers, Electoral Incentives, and Presidential Disaster Declarations.” Journal of Politics 73.4 (2011): 1142–1151.

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    Demonstrates that presidents have been more likely to issue disaster declarations for electorally competitive states since Congress broadened their discretion to do so through the Stafford Act in 1988. Further finds that these declarations provide the president with an electoral benefit, as the president’s electoral support increases by approximately one percent in states receiving one disaster declaration.

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  • Rogowski, Jon C. “Presidential Influence in an Era of Congressional Dominance.” American Political Science Review 110.2 (2016): 325–341.

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    Argues that presidential particularism is not a modern development facilitated by a growth in the power of the presidency, but that presidents were able to exercise particularistic behavior even in eras of congressional dominance. Focusing on the distribution of county-level post offices in the late 19th century, finds that counties which strongly supported the president in past elections and which were represented by copartisans received more post offices than other counties.

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Campaign Strategy

Presidential campaigns, as collectives of rational, goal-oriented individuals, carefully craft strategies which they expect will lead to victory for their candidate. The following subsections detail some of the key strategic considerations with which campaigns must grapple in pursuit of 270 electoral votes.

Resource Allocation

Though presidential campaigns generate vast financial and organizational resources, these resources are finite, and campaigns must strategically allocate these limited resources across both states and the course of the campaign in order to maximize their chance of winning. Given the structure of the Electoral College, campaigns devise strategies which aim to win 270 or more electoral votes. Consequently, campaigns select states on which to focus their efforts on the basis of the number of electoral votes held by a state (Brams and Davis 1974), a state’s electoral competitiveness (Colantoni, et al. 1975), the presence of other salient elections in the state (Shaw 2006), and other informational cues which indicate a state’s electoral value and the feasibility of winning the state (see also Althaus, et al. 2002; Bartels 1985; Nagler and Leighley 1992; Reeves, et al. 2004; Shaw 1999). However, while both campaigns in a given presidential election often converge on similar state-level strategies (Shaw 2006), campaigns often adopt different strategies for within states, such as targeting copartisans or potentially persuadable voters (Chen and Reeves 2011). Hersh 2015 further suggests that campaigns’ strategies within states are conditioned by the amount of voter information that states provide to campaigns; while campaigns can microtarget their direct contact efforts when they have access to detailed information, such as voters’ partisan affiliations, they must rely on demographic heuristic cues to target geographic areas concentrated with likely supporters in the absence of such information. Campaigns’ strategic efforts can pay off, as Holbrook 2002, Masket 2009, Nagler and Leighley 1992, and Shaw 2006 provide empirical evidence that the allocation of resources such as candidate appearances, campaign field offices, and television advertisements can increase candidates’ vote shares. However, O’Connell 2011 cautions that campaigns are fallible, as candidates and their advisers, like all human beings, as susceptible to psychological biases such as risk aversion that can induce consequential strategic errors.

  • Althaus, Scott L., Peter F. Nardulli, and Daron R. Shaw. “Candidate Appearances in Presidential Elections, 1972–2000.” Political Communication 19.1 (2002): 49–72.

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    Examining candidate campaign appearances from 1972 to 2000, finds that presidential candidates have increased their number of campaign appearances over time, are more frequent in more populous states and media markets, and target electorally competitive states. However, nearly all states and media markets, even if they are not electorally competitive, tend to receive a campaign visit from at least one of the major party presidential candidates in each election cycle.

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  • Bartels, Larry M. “Resource Allocation in a Presidential Campaign.” Journal of Politics 47.3 (1985): 928–936.

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    Investigates how presidential campaigns allocate instrumental resources (e.g., candidate appearances) and ornamental resources (e.g., number of campaign personnel) across states. Using data from Jimmy Carter’s 1976 campaign, finds that instrumental resources tend to be allocated to larger states in accordance with formal theoretic expectations (e.g., Brams and Davis 1974), but that ornamental resources are relatively more dispersed across states.

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  • Brams, Steven J., and Morton D. Davis. “The 3/2’s Rule in Presidential Campaigning.” American Political Science Review 68.1 (1974): 113–134.

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    Presents a formal model which asserts that the design of the Electoral College induces presidential candidates to allocate disproportionate amounts of campaign resources to larger states. Empirical analyses of candidates’ time allocations across states substantiate this account that candidates allocate resources to states approximately in proportion to the 3/2 power of their electoral votes.

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  • Chen, Lanhee, and Andrew Reeves. “Turning Out the Base or Appealing to the Periphery? An Analysis of County-Level Candidate Appearances in the 2008 Presidential Campaign.” American Politics Research 39.3 (2011): 534–556.

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    Investigates the strategic allocation of campaign appearances across counties by the presidential and vice-presidential candidates in the 2008 general election. Finds that John McCain’s campaign pursued a “base” strategy, dispatching McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, to counties that supported George W. Bush in 2004, but that Barack Obama’s campaign implemented a “peripheral” strategy, concentrating the appearances of Obama and his running mate, Joe Biden, in counties that experienced population growth between 2000 and 2006.

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  • Colantoni, Claude S., Terrence J. Levesque, and Peter C. Ordeshook. “Campaign Resource Allocations Under the Electoral College.” American Political Science Review 69.1 (1975): 141–154.

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    Develops a formal model which suggests that presidential candidates allocate more resources to states they anticipate will be more competitive in the election, and that candidates adjust their strategies over the course of the campaign.

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  • Hersh, Eitan D. Hacking the Electorate: How Campaigns Perceive Voters. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015.

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    Examines how presidential campaigns’ direct contact strategies across states are influenced by the richness of the voter information that states make available to campaigns. In information-poor environments, campaigns draw on heuristic demographic cues, such as gender and race, to identify geographic areas in which to focus direct contacting efforts. However, in information-rich environments, where states provide campaigns with detailed voter-level information such as partisan affiliation and race, campaigns engage in microtargeting and focus their direct contacting efforts on copartisans and members of specific racial groups.

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  • Holbrook, Thomas M. “Did the Whistle-Stop Campaign Matter?” PS: Political Science and Politics 35.1 (2002): 59–66.

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    Investigates how campaigns allocate candidate appearances across states and whether candidate appearances affect electoral outcomes. Using data on candidate appearances from the 1948 presidential election, demonstrates that Harry Truman’s campaign allocated candidate appearances more strategically than his challengers, that Truman’s appearances were associated with higher vote shares, and that Truman’s surprise victory may have stemmed from his strategic appearances.

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  • Masket, Seth E. “Did Obama’s Ground Game Matter? The Influence of Local Field Offices during the 2008 Presidential Election.” Public Opinion Quarterly 73.5 (2009): 1023–1039.

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    Explores how the allocation of presidential campaign field offices influences aggregate election outcomes. Finds that Barack Obama received significantly higher vote shares in counties in battleground states in which his campaign established field offices than in other counties, and that the Obama campaign’s field offices determined the electoral outcome in three states.

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  • Nagler, Jonathan, and Jan Leighley. “Presidential Campaign Expenditures: Evidence on Allocations and Effects.” Public Choice 73.3 (1992): 319–333.

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    Leverages data from the Federal Communication Commission for the 1972 presidential election to assess how presidential candidates allocate advertising across states and the effect of advertising on election outcomes. Demonstrates that presidential candidates allocate resources to electorally competitive states and to larger states, and that the allocation of campaign resources to a state increases a candidate’s vote share in that state.

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  • O’Connell, David. “Situational Gamblers: Prospect Theory and the Commonalities of Presidential Campaign Management.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 41.1 (2011): 64–92.

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    Argues that presidential campaign strategies can be influenced by the psychological biases identified by prospect theory. Draws on important strategic decisions made by candidates in the 1980 presidential primaries to demonstrate that presidential campaigns make risk-averse decisions given the opportunity for gains and risk-acceptant decisions when faced with losses.

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  • Reeves, Andrew, Lanhee Chen, and Tiffany Nagano. “A Reassessment of ‘The Methods behind the Madness: Presidential Electoral College Strategies, 1988–1996.’” Journal of Politics 66.2 (2004): 616–620.

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    In reanalyzing Shaw 1999, determines that the electoral strategies of presidential campaigns are not influenced by commonly known information such as state competitiveness, and suggests that the strategic interaction of campaigns cannot be assessed with the methodological techniques implemented.

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  • Shaw, Daron R. “The Methods behind the Madness: Presidential Electoral College Strategies, 1988–1996.” Journal of Politics 61.4 (1999): 893–913.

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    Argues that presidential campaigns design their electoral college strategies using commonly known information, such as a state’s competitiveness, number of electoral votes, and cost of television advertisements. Finds that both Democratic and Republican candidates use these common sources of information to develop similar strategies, but that the strategic interaction of campaigns induces candidates to sometimes deviate from their strategies.

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  • Shaw, Daron R. The Race to 270: The Electoral College and the Campaign Strategies of 2000 and 2004. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006.

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    Examines both the campaign strategies presidential candidates utilize and the effect of these strategies on voter evaluations. Demonstrates that presidential candidates rely on a standard set of criteria for determining to which states resources should be allocated, such as the presence of other salient elections and historical trends, and that campaign effects stemming from television advertising can be consistently observed when utilizing more granular units of time, such as weeks.

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Messaging

Presidential campaigns have broad latitude in tailoring their campaign messages, and the success of a campaign can hinge on its ability to craft, present, and manage a “winning” messaging strategy. Petrocik 1996 argues that the Democratic and Republican parties “own” certain issues, such as social welfare and defense, respectively, and that presidential candidates succeed by framing the election in terms of issues that their party owns (see also Petrocik, et al. 2003). Vavreck 2009 similarly suggests that candidates perform better when they strategically emphasize the economy (if doing so helps their campaign) or another salient national issue (if focusing on the economy would hurt their campaign). Sigelman and Buell 2003 asserts that negative campaigning messages are also employed strategically, as campaigns are more likely to employ negative tactics when they are trailing the other candidate, and are more likely to have the vice-presidential candidate deploy the negative messages than the presidential candidate. Leveraging archival evidence, Jacobs and Shapiro 1994 and Druckman, et al. 2004 demonstrate that presidential campaigns use polling results to discern which types of campaign messages would increase their electoral support and adjust their messaging strategies accordingly. However, despite campaigns’ incentives for strategic messaging, Damore 2005 and Sigelman and Buell 2004 argue that campaigns often converge on the same types of campaign messages as they respond to the messages deployed by the opponent’s campaign and the issue priorities of the media and the public.

  • Damore, David F. “Issue Convergence in Presidential Campaigns.” Political Behavior 27.1 (2005): 71–97.

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    Argues that presidential candidates typically converge over time to emphasize the same issues during the campaign. Finds that candidates converge on same same issues as they respond to the issues emphasized by their opponents and the media, the issues salient to the electorate, and the competitive environment of the campaign.

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  • Druckman, James N., Lawrence R. Jacobs, and Eric Ostermeier. “Candidate Strategies to Prime Issues and Image.” Journal of Politics 66.4 (2004): 1180–1202.

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    Using archival materials from Richard Nixon’s 1972 campaign, finds that the Nixon campaign decided which issues to prime in response to White House public opinion polls. Specifically, the campaign tailored the domestic policy issues emphasized and the positions advertised for these issues on the basis of polling results, and the campaign primed foreign policy issues to project favorable perceptions of Nixon’s personal qualities in response to negative trait evaluations in White House polls.

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  • Jacobs, Lawrence R., and Robert Y. Shapiro. “Issues, Candidate Image, and Priming: The Use of Private Polls in Kennedy’s 1960 Presidential Campaign.” American Political Science Review 88.3 (1994): 527–540.

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    Draws on archival materials from John F. Kennedy’s 1960 campaign to demonstrate that the Kennedy campaign tailored campaign strategy in response to the results of private polls. Shows that the Kennedy campaign used polling results to identify issues that the campaign could use to highlight Kennedy’s personal attributes, such as boldness and competence, rather than to emphasize Kennedy’s policy positions.

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  • Petrocik, John R. “Issue Ownership in Presidential Elections, with a 1980 Case Study.” American Journal of Political Science (1996): 825–850.

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    Argues that parties “own” certain issues, such that voters associate certain issues with certain parties and perceive one party to better handle some issues than the other party. Further asserts that a presidential candidate performs best when she frames the election as a decision about an issue that her party owns, as voters will be more likely to support her because they expect her and her party to handle the issue better than her opponent.

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  • Petrocik, John R., William L. Benoit, and Glenn J. Hansen. “Issue Ownership and Presidential Campaigning, 1952–2000.” Political Science Quarterly 118.4 (2003): 599–626.

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    Examines the issue emphases of presidential campaigns from 1952 to 2000. Finds that Democratic and Republican candidates tend to focus more on issues that their parties own, but that candidates of both parties allocate more attention to Republican issues than Democratic issues. Further demonstrates that two-party Democratic vote share increases as Democratic issues are more heavily emphasized during the campaign.

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  • Sigelman, Lee, and Emmett H. Buell. “You Take the High Road and I’ll Take the Low Road? The Interplay of Attack Strategies and Tactics in Presidential Campaigns.” Journal of Politics 65.2 (2003): 518–531.

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    Investigates candidates’ strategic decisions to utilize negative campaigning tactics. Demonstrates that presidential campaigns are more likely to campaign negatively when they are trailing the other major party candidate, and that vice-presidential candidates are more likely to employ negative campaigning than their presidential running mates.

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  • Sigelman, Lee, and Emmett H. Buell. “Avoidance or Engagement? Issue Convergence in US Presidential Campaigns, 1960–2000.” American Journal of Political Science 48.4 (2004): 650–661.

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    Drawing on a database of statements made by presidential candidates and campaign officials from 1960 to 2000, demonstrates that presidential candidates tend to converge on the same issue emphasized over the course of the campaign.

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  • Vavreck, Lynn. The Message Matters: The Economy and Presidential Campaigns. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009.

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    Explores the types of messages candidates focus on in presidential campaigns, and how candidates’ messaging strategies influence election outcomes. Argues that candidates perform best when they emphasize issues for which they maintain a distinct comparative advantage; candidates who benefit from the current economic conditions are advantaged by running “clarifying” campaigns that emphasize the economy’s positive performance, while candidates who do not benefit from the current economic conditions are better off running “insurgent” campaigns which emphasize a different issue that is already salient to the public and on which they have an issue position more attractive to the electorate than that of their opponent.

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Vice-Presidential Selection

While presidential nominees ostensibly seek to select competent running mates who share their policy preferences, vice-presidential nominees are often selected for the expected electoral advantage they will confer on the ticket. Sigelman and Wahlbeck 1997 suggest that vice-presidential nominees are selected on the basis of the size of their home state, their past experience in running for the presidential nomination, and their ability to balance the age of the ticket. Baumgartner 2012 and Hiller and Kriner 2008 argue that these selection criteria are time-bound, as the experience of potential running mates has become an increasingly important selection criterion in recent decades. Court and Lynch 2015, Heersink and Peterson 2016, and Holbrook 1994 suggest that the strategic selection of vice-presidential nominees can yield electoral benefits for presidential candidates, as they can help mobilize important constituencies, yield an electoral advantage in the running mate’s home state, and influence presidential vote intentions. However, Devine and Kopko 2016 and Romero 2001 assert that the electoral effects of vice-presidential candidates are largely illusory.

  • Baumgartner, Jody. “Vice Presidential Selection in the Convention Era: Experience or Electoral Advantage?” Congress & the Presidency 39.3 (2012): 297–315.

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    Examines the relative importance of prospective vice-presidential nominees’ experience and the perceived electoral home state advantage they would confer on the ticket in the running mate selection process during the convention era (1832–1928). Finds that prospective running mates from more competitive states, but not those with more governing experience, are more likely to be selected as the vice-presidential nominee.

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  • Court, Whitney L., and Michael S. Lynch. “How Presidential Running Mates Influence Turnout: The Risks and Rewards of Revving up the Base.” American Politics Research 43.5 (2015): 897–918.

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    Investigates how the relative ideological extremity of a presidential nominee’s running mate influences presidential election turnout and vote choice. Finds that John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin—who was perceived as relatively ideologically extreme—as his running mate in 2008 made conservatives more likely to vote, and more likely to vote for McCain, while Mitt Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan—who was perceived as ideologically similar—did not substantially influence voters’ decision to vote or to vote for Mitt Romney.

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  • Devine, Christopher, and Kyle C. Kopko. The VP Advantage: How Running Mates Influence Home State Voting in Presidential Elections. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

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    Compares the home state advantage conferred on presidential tickets for the presidential and vice presidential candidates. Leveraging both aggregate election outcome data and individual-level survey data from 1884–2012, demonstrates that presidents consistently receive an electoral advantage in their home state, but that vice presidents only receive an electoral advantage in their home state if the state is small and they have a long history of government service in the state.

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  • Heersink, Boris, and Brenton D. Peterson. “Measuring the Vice-Presidential Home State Advantage with Synthetic Controls.” American Politics Research 44.4 (2016): 734–763.

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    Employs a synthetic control approach to examine the effect of running mate selection on presidential tickets’ electoral performance in the running mate’s home state. Finds that running mates confer an electoral advantage of approximately 2.67 percentage points of the two-party vote in their home state.

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  • Hiller, Mark, and Douglas Kriner. “Institutional Change and the Dynamics of Vice Presidential Selection.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 38.3 (2008): 401–421.

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    Argues that the determinants of running mate selection changed in the early 1970s in response to the McGovern-Fraser reforms and George McGovern’s selection of Thomas Eagleton as his running mate in 1972. Using data on vice-presidential nominees from 1940 to 2004, demonstrates that running mate selection decisions since the 1970s are less motivated by incorporating regional balance into the ticket and selecting persons from large states. Instead, running mates are selected in the modern era on the basis of their past government service, as presidential nominees seek to use their vice-presidential nominee selection to bolster the experience of the ticket.

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  • Holbrook, Thomas M. “The Behavioral Consequences of Vice-Presidential Debates Does the Undercard Have Any Punch?” American Politics Quarterly 22.4 (1994): 469–482.

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    Uses panel surveys to assess whether the vice-presidential debates in 1984 and 1988 influenced prospective voters’ vote intentions and evaluations of the candidates. Finds that voters’ evaluations of the vice-presidential candidates’ debate performance are directly related to vote intentions and assessments of the candidates’ qualifications.

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  • Romero, David W. “Requiem for a Lightweight: Vice Presidential Candidate Evaluations and the Presidential Vote.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 31.3 (2001): 454–463.

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    Argues that previous studies finding an effect of attitudes toward vice-presidential nominees on presidential vote choice is a consequence of inappropriately modeling the relative effects of voters’ predispositions and their evaluations of the running mates. Implementing an instrumental variables approach with data from the 1972–1976 ANES panel study, finds that voters’ evaluations of vice-presidential nominees do not have an effect on individual-level vote choice.

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  • Sigelman, Lee, and Paul J. Wahlbeck. “The ‘Veepstakes’: Strategic Choice in Presidential Running Mate Selection.” American Political Science Review 91.4 (1997): 855–864.

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    Explores the determinants of presidential running mate selection for all presidential elections from 1940 to 1992. Finds that prospective running mates are more likely to be selected as the vice-presidential nominee if they are from a different age cohort than the presidential nominee, competed for the party’s presidential nomination in a past election cycle, and reside in a large state.

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