Shared Attributes between the Voter and the Candidate: A Look at the US 2008 Democratic Primary Election -------------------------------------------------
Jeffrey J. Lindstrom
The correlations between a candidate running for election and a voter who participates in the election, in terms of support and participation, often involve the use of shared attributes to explain how said correlations have an impact on the outcome of the election. In a representative democracy such as the United States, the belief is that those who vote in elections wield the power to select government officials, who then in turn create, uphold, or interpret the law of the land accordingly. Those who participate in elections, therefore, believe that the candidate they select will make decisions or introduce legislature according to the beliefs that those who voted share with one another. A voter or a group of voters are more likely to support a candidate if they share at least one attribute with one another. In order to understand how candidate selection based on belief is accomplished, an account of how exactly comparisons between the candidate and the voter must be made to accommodate a multitude of potential attributes. Both physical attributes, such as race, and non-physical attributes, such as political ideology, can be used to compare and contrast a candidate with a voter. With this data, we can then predict the outcome between a certain attribute that a voter shares (or does not share) with a candidate and the support that candidate receives from that conglomerate.
In this article, the idea of correlation between a candidate and a voter affecting support will be applied to the 2008 US Democratic Primary election between Barack Obama, an African American male, and Hillary Clinton, a Caucasian woman. The 2008 Democratic Primary was unique in that it features two presidential candidates that displayed contrasting physical attributes in both race and gender while competing for votes in a shared pool of Democratic support. Shared attributes became extremely important in this environment, as with such polarizing contrasts, both candidates had to appeal to as many similar groups as possible to gain votes in the primary. Shared attributes, as a result, can be used as the rationale to explain why Barack Obama eventually won the Democratic nomination over Hillary Clinton by gaining support from key demographics. Literature Review
To begin a study of shared attributes and candidate support, a connection must be made between the perception of the voter’s beliefs and the outcome of their participation. This connection would validate the possible correlation that this article is analyzing. A study conducted by Allyson Holbrook, Jon Krosnick, Penny Visser, Wendi Gardner, and John Cacioppo attempted to explain how voters create political attitudes through events and personal experiences and use those attitudes (simplified as either favorable or unfavorable beliefs) to explain how voters evaluate a candidate. The article tracks voter attitude towards a political candidate over a period of time and uses an equation known as the ANM (asymmetric nonlinear model) to calculate overall attitude towards a candidate based on individual voters (Holbrook et. all 1999, 931). Their data concluded that as more positive beliefs were attributed towards a candidate, the more voter attitude shifted towards a positive correlation, and thus resulted in increased political support. Categories used in order to determine voter attitude include, age, race, geography, income, and involvement in the election process. One interesting find in this study is that voters tend to use broad definitions when describing favorable personality traits and more specific definitions when describing unfavorable personality traits. According to this study, this often results in favorable personality traits outweighing unfavorable personality traits due to their broad...
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*NOTE: Date found online at Rasmussen Reports’ official website, but you must be a Platinum Member in order to view the data used in this study. I used 17 crosstabs for this project, one for each state observed. Data for these crosstabs can be found on the back of this paper.
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