Angus Campbell et. al. The American Voter (1960). Sections I-III.

Main Argument: Party ID is the major influence on voters perceptions of political choice as well as their final vote. Party ID is characterized by stability and resistance to contrary influence. Furthermore, it is formed early in life (i.e., it is inherited).


Place in the Literature: Campbell at al. represent the (University of) Michigan (psychological/party ID) approach to voter behavior. They can be seen as arguing against Berelson et al.s Columbia studies (for whom societal pressures play the largest role), Fiorinas (1981) issue-based retrospective voting, and the broader rational choice approach of Downs (1957) and Ordeshook (1968).Though this model has been influential enough that researchers still cite Campbell et al. decades later, The American Voter has faced substantial criticism, such as in Key (1966) and Popkin et al. (1976).


Method: Longitudinal data from three presidential elections (1948, 1952, and 1956). This data was collected through interviews with voters. Campbell et al. determine an individuals party id and partisan preferences/leanings based upon responses to interview questions (i.e., they rely on the self-identification of voters) rather than past voting behaviour. The surveys that Campbell et al. started have continued to be administer during every presidential election (albeit with significantly modified questions) and constitute the American National Election Studies (ANES, NES).



== Notes ==



The Funnel of Causality Model

The best predictor of party ID is the funnel of causality model. An indiviudal learns party ID from parents and socialization. This creates a psychological attachment to a party. Your partisanship shapes the development of your attitudes; because you like your party, you adopt its positions. Underlying attitudes are then reflected in your positions on the six attitudinal dimensions: the personal attributes of the Democratic candidate , the personal attributes of the Republican candidate, the groups involved in politics and the questions of group interest affecting them, the issues of domestic policy, the issues of foreign policy, and the comparative record of the two parties in managing the affairs of government. These issue positions are the proxy cause of your voting decision.


Partisan Perception

Not surprisingly, feelings across these six dimensions tend to be highly correlated. This occurs because partisan feelings are strongly shaped by party identification. (Party ID leads to partisan feelings, not the reverse.) The party acts as a supplier of cues by which the individual may evaluate the elements of politics.



The authors find that policies and issues play a small part in most voters decisions. Only a small fraction of the electorate (12%) displays anything resembling an ideology (i.e., most people when asked about their positions on specific policy issues do not have a consistent pattern of responses in terms of a liberal-conservative dimension), and that voters frequently do not know which party stands for what.



Chapter by Chapter Summaries:


Chapter 1


– Outlines the general approach

– Uses survey data from 1948, 1952, and 1956 (not much from 1948)


Chapter 2:

– Details the \”funnel analogy,\” the central argument in this book

– Political socialization (mainly your parents party identification) determines party ID, which determines your political attitudes, which determines how you actually vote

– Party ID is seen as an \”enduring psychological attachment\”


The political attitudes it determines are measured along six dimensions:

  1. How you feel about the Democratic candidate
  2. How you feel about the Republican candidate
  3. How well each party manages the affairs of government
  4. Group interests
  5. Domestic policy issues
  6. Foreign policy issues


Chapter 3: What our attitudes are

– Threshold of awareness: It takes a lot for the masses to take note of something

– Although a congressperson may have a clear, frequently stated position on foreign policy issues, most people won’t know it

– They pay far more attention to you once youre president than they do to you as a candidate

– Social bases of stability: Some perceptions are stable, others fleeting


Chapter 4: How Our Attitudes Affect Our Voting Behaviour

– You can predict voting behaviour well based on attitudes about the candidates

– Predictions improve by including attitudes about domestic and partisan issues

– The authors asked five questions on which people could take a partisan position (or not)


Chapter 6: Partisanship

– Vote Choice is the sum of a field of forces –> Partisanship is an antecedent to those forces

– As shown on p 137, partisanship correlates well with voting but does not explain all of the vote choice

– Strong party identifiers tend to be more interested in politics

– Even Democrats have generally Republican attitudes about foreign policy, and even Republicans have generally Democratic attitudes about domestic policy [129-130]


Chapter 7: Origins Of Partisanship

– Early socialization (family influences)

– Partisanship is stable over time

– Youth lean Democrat

– Minorities lean Democrat; perhaps they are drawn to Democratic ideas of social equality (this works for Canada too – see Blais 2005)


Chapter 8: Public Policy And Political Preference

Before an issue affects your vote, three things must happen:

  1. You must be aware of and know something about the issue. (It must be \”cognized.\”)
  2. You must care about it, at least minimally (Operationalized: You must have an opinion about a specific piece of legislation)
  3. You must know what the parties say about the issue


– You must know a LOT about an issue in order for it to affect your vote

– Thus, the only laws anybody knows of are the really popular ones

– But since you need to know the details (not just the subject) of the bill, this may not be helpful


Chapter 9

– Familiarity with politics varies; some people know a good bit about several issues, some know very little about any issues

– However, individuals do tend to have a firm sense of how the parties differ

– This, combined with an assumption that voters have stable underlying values, would explain why voters tend to stick with a single political party

– Some individuals form their views on individual issues from an underlying set of general principles

– Attitudes about foreign and domestic policy tend not to correlate (positively or negatively)

– One who favours domestic interventionism does not necessarily favour foreign interventionism as well \”Internationalist\” ideals also do not correlate with membership in either party, despite the parties reputations

– Many people have \”non-scalar\” opinions (they dont appear to have congruent views)

– However, non-scalar patterns occur in both parties (though they are least frequent among strong partisans, not independents)

– However, this doesnt mean that they are ideological. Instead, people seem to concern themselves with \”primitive self-interest\”


Chapter 10:

Frequently, analysts assume that most voters are:

(1) sensitive to their policy position on a left-right continuum, and;

(2) sensitive to both parties shifting positions along that continuum [217]

Thus, they speak of the results of an election as indicating an ideological shift in the electorate or by one of the parties

However, only a minority of the electorate actually meet these two conditions