Agenda Setting in Congressional Elections: The Impact of Issues and Campaigns on Voting Behavior

By Abbe, Owen G.; Goodliffe, Jay et al. | Political Research Quarterly, December 2003 | Go to article overview

Agenda Setting in Congressional Elections: The Impact of Issues and Campaigns on Voting Behavior


Abbe, Owen G., Goodliffe, Jay, Herrnson, Paul S., Patterson, Kelly D., Political Research Quarterly


Do issues matter? This article extends recent research on issue voting and campaign agenda-setting to voting decisions in congressional elections. We use a unique data set that includes information from a survey of candidates and campaign aides who competed in the 1998 House elections and a survey of individuals who voted in them. The study assesses the impact of campaign-specific variables on citizens' voting decisions, while controlling for relevant attitudinal and demographic factors. We find that when a candidate and voter agree on what is the most important issue in the election, the voter is more likely to vote for that candidate if that candidates party "owns" the issue. The effects of shared issue priorities are especially strong for independent voters.

Do issues matter? The roles of issues and campaigns in elections have been the subject of a recurrent debate in the political science literature. Traditional democratic theory holds that campaigns inform citizens, offer them clear and distinct choices between candidates on the issues, and motivate them to participate in elections. Voters are expected to respond to the information they receive from campaigns and cast their ballots for the candidate who most directly addressed their concerns (Dewey 1954: 122). Early empirical research on campaigns and elections, however, demonstrated that voters' sociological characteristics and partisan attachments were usually more important than issues, as well as campaigns and other short-term forces in influencing how people vote (Berelson et al. 1954; Campbell et al. 1960). More recent research on presidential elections has shown that issues influence how individuals cast their ballots when voters focus on issues that favor a candidate's party (Petrocik 1996).

The scholarly debate over issue voting is far from resolved. Disagreements exist over theoretical considerations, including whether retrospective, prospective, or agenda-setting approaches better explain a voter's decision. Disagreements also arise over methodological approaches, such as whether issue voting is best researched in the field or in a laboratory setting. Additionally, most research focuses on high-visibility elections, such as presidential and gubernatorial contests. However, issue voting also may take place in contests for the U.S. House of Representatives and other down-ballot elections.

This study advances our knowledge of the impact of campaigning on party-owned issues on voters. It also extends recent research on agenda-setting in experimental settings and presidential elections to congressional elections by linking issue-based campaigning to individuals' voting decisions. Previous research on the role of issues in congressional elections based on spatial voting theories have used measures of issue proximity that evaluate voters' ideology across a range of issue questions rather than identifying voters' issue priorities (see Serra and Moon 1994; Wright 1978). These studies also operationalized candidate issue positions by imputation, using either incumbents' roll call votes or voters' perceptions of candidates' issue positions to determine, indirectly, the candidates' issue priorities. Other studies of issues in House elections have focused exclusively on campaign advertisements or voter issue preferences without integrating the two (Abramowitz and Segal 1990; Spiliotes and Vavreck 2002). We use a more direct approach that relies on candidates and campaign aides to establish what constituted the most important issue in their campaigns and on the voters in their districts for what they believe was the most important issue in the election. The study uses a data set that includes information from a survey of candidates and campaign aides who competed in the 1998 House elections and a survey of individuals who voted in those elections to assess the impact of campaign variables on citizens' voting decisions. We find that when a candidate and voter share issue priorities, the voter is more likely to vote for the candidate if that issue is "owned" by the candidate's party. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Agenda Setting in Congressional Elections: The Impact of Issues and Campaigns on Voting Behavior
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    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.