National Politics and Congressional Elections

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NATIONAL POLITICS AND CONGRESSIONAL ELECTIONS

The electoral politics of Congress may center largely on individual candidates and campaigns, but it is the collective results of congressional elections that shape the course of national politics. Subject of the chapter →how the millions of individual voting decisions in hundreds of districtly individual contests combine to produce intelligible election results. Before the tools of survey research came into common use, politicians and political analysts had little problem interpreting aggregate congressional election results. It was widely believed that economic conditions and presidential politics shaped the electoral prospects of congressional candidates. It is no great challenge to interpret congressional elections as national events controlled by national political conditions. The strong connection between aggregate economic variables and aggregate election results naturally inspired scholars to investigate the effects of economic conditions on individual voting behavior. At least four different kinds of economic variables might influence the vote choice: personal financial experiences and expectations, perceptions of general economic conditions, evaluations of the government’s economic performance, and party images on economic policies. Coattail Effects →the notion that successful candidates at the top of the ticket - in national elections, the winning presidential candidate - pull some of their party’s candidates into office along with them, riding, as it were, on their coattails. A presidential winner whose success is not shared by other candidates of his party is presumed to have no coattails. Party identifiers who voted for the other party’s presidential candidate were a good deal more likely also to for the other party’s House or Senate candidate as well in every election year. The aggregate effects of presidential coattails depend on how defection rates differ between the two parties’ identifiers. The...
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