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      The Two Faces of Issue Voting

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      American Political Science Review

      JSTOR

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          Abstract

          Both implicit democratic norms and the reconstructions provided by theorists of rational choice suggest that issue voters are more sophisticated–educated, informed, and active in politics–than other voters. But some issues are clearly more difficult than others, and the voters who respond to “hard” and “easy” issues, respectively, are assumed to differ in kind. We propose the hypothesis that “easy-issue” voters are no more sophisticated than non-issue voters, and this is found to be the case. The findings suggest a reevaluation of the import of rising and falling levels of issue voting and suggest a prominent role for “easy” issues in electoral realignments.

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          Most cited references 13

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          Whites' Opposition to “Busing”: Self-interest or Symbolic Politics?

          This article contrasts the “self-interest” and “symbolic politics” explanations for the formation of mass policy preferences and voting behavior. Self-interested attitudes are defined as those supporting policies that would maximize benefits and minimize costs to the individual's private material well-being. The “symbolic politics” model emphasizes pressures to make adulthood attitudes consistent with the residues of preadult socialization. We compare the two models in terms of their ability to account for whites' opposition to busing school children for racial integration of the public schools, and the role of the busing issue in presidential voting decisions, using the 1972 Center for Political Studies election study. Regression analysis shows strong effects of symbolic attitudes (racial intolerance and political conservatism) on opposition to busing, and of the busing issue on presidential voting decisions. Self-interest (e.g., having children susceptible to busing) had no significant effect upon either. It is concluded that self-interest is often overestimated as a determinant of public opinion and voting behavior because it is too rarely directly assessed empirically.
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            Policy Voting and the Electoral Process: The Vietnam War Issue

            The infrequency of issue voting in American presidential elections is usually attributed to a lack of policy rationality among voters. An examination of the Vietnam war issue in 1968 suggests, however, that much of the explanation may lie instead with the electoral process itself, and with the kinds of choices which are offered to citizens.
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              From Confusion to Clarity: Issues and American Voters, 1956–1968

               Gerald Pomper (1972)
              Analysis of national election surveys from 1956 to 1968 reveals significant changes in the voters' perceptions of issues and the major parties. There has been a considerable increase in the correlation of party identification and opinion on six major issues, relating to social welfare, racial integration, and foreign aid. Voters are more prone to see a difference between the parties on these issues and are increasingly likely to identify the Democratic party as favorable to federal governmental action. These findings contrast with those ofThe American Voterand similar studies. The reasons for the changes cannot be found in demographic factors, as tested by controls for age cohorts, education, region, and race. More probably the explanation lies in strictly political factors. A particularly important event was the presidential campaign of 1964, in which ideological differences between the parties were deliberately emphasized. The electorate responded to this campaign by becoming more ideologically aware, and its learning appears to have persisted through the 1968 election. This finding suggests that past conclusions about the low ideological awareness of the electorate were specific to the Eisenhower era, and that the issue content of the vote will vary with the stimuli provided by the general political environment.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                applab
                American Political Science Review
                Am Polit Sci Rev
                JSTOR
                0003-0554
                1537-5943
                March 1980
                August 2014
                : 74
                : 01
                : 78-91
                Article
                10.2307/1955648
                © 1980

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