Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Gubernational and Senatorial Campaign Mobilization of Voters

Academic journal article Political Research Quarterly

Gubernational and Senatorial Campaign Mobilization of Voters

Article excerpt

This article examines the role of gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns in mobilizing voters in the 1990, 1992, 1994, and 1996 elections. Merging contextual measures on these campaigns with data from the Voter Supplement Files of the November Current Population Surveys, I find that statewide campaigns are especially important for activating citizens in midterms. An off-year campaign environment that is associated with hotly-contested, high-spending campaigns elevates citizens' turnout probabilities by double-digit points. However, a presidential race provides an overriding stimulus that gets to the polls most of those citizens who can be activated, as state-level races demonstrate negligible mobilizing influence in the on-years. I also find that previous looks into the influence of campaign context on individual turnout are based on "biased" tests of statistical significance. Failure to take into account state "clusters" in national samples results in downwardly biased standard errors and, consequently, upwardly biased t-/z-values for state-level campaign coefficients. Finally, I consider the two-stage nature of electoral participation in the U.S.: (1) registration followed by (2) turnout among those who are registered. The activating influence of campaigns operates primarily at the second stage.

A growing body of research has assessed the influence of political campaigns and differences in electoral context on voter turnout (e.g., Patterson and Caldeira 1983; Caldeira, Patterson, and Markko 1985; Cox and Munger 1989; Leighley and Nagler 1992; Rosenstone and Hansen 1993). Most of these efforts indicate that high-profile, hard-fought contests get out the vote. Focusing on the role of gubernatorial and U.S. Senate campaigns, this study adds to this body Although only presidential contests eclipse these statewide campaigns in terms of level of stimuli provided and media coverage received, investigators have not focused a great deal of attention on their role in activating voters. Especially noteworthy is the relative absence of efforts that examine the influence of gubernatorial and Senate contests on individual turnout. One motivation for this study, then, is to make inroads toward filling this gap. More generally, in an era of concern with low and declining turnout levels (see Teixeira 1992; Rosenstone and Hansen 1993), it is important to assess contextual factors that structure turnout, including campaigns themselves. Examining the mobilizing influence of these contests also enables reassessment of theories of participation. For example, to what extent is turnout a function of individuals' characteristics and to what extent is turnout a function of the campaign environment?

Building on recent research (e.g., Jackson 1996a; Timpone 1998), I take into account the two-stage nature of electoral participation in the United States: registration followed by voting itself. The two-stage nature of participation has implications both for our theoretical understanding of participation and for statistical modeling strategies. I also consider a methodological issue that prior studies assessing state-level contextual factors have not. The contextual unit of a state represents a statistical cluster in a national survey sample, and the residuals for respondents from a single state likely are correlated (see Rogers 1993; Carsey and Wright 1998). One implication is that the estimation procedures of existing studies may have attenuated the standard errors of coefficient estimates; this bias in standard errors likely is greatest for those coefficients that accompany state-level contextual variables (e.g., measures on statewide campaigns).

OVERVIEW OF EXISTING RESEARCH AND THEORY

The seminal empirical investigations of turnout focused primarily on the characteristics of citizens themselves (e.g., Campbell et al. 1960; Verba and Nie 1972; Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980). Although these efforts provide a great deal of insight, they miss (or, at least, do not emphasize) some factors that are of great interest to students of politics. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.