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Facing the Challenge of DemocracyExplorations in the Analysis of Public Opinion and Political Participation$
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Paul M. Sniderman and Benjamin Highton

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691151106

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691151106.001.0001

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Candidates and Parties in Congressional Elections

Candidates and Parties in Congressional Elections

Revisiting Candidate-Centered Conclusions in a Partisan Era

(p.224) IX Candidates and Parties in Congressional Elections
Facing the Challenge of Democracy

Eric McGhee

Kathryn Pearson

Princeton University Press

This chapter tests a party-centered and candidate-centered model of vote choice with some recent data, revealing that certain aspects of the candidate-centered model require revision. It focuses on voters who identify with the same party as the candidate challenging their incumbent member of Congress—here referred to as “challenger partisans.” Challenger partisans showed the strongest tendency to vote across party lines in 1978, but they are also the ones who have returned to the partisan fold in greatest numbers in recent years. However, many important early conclusions about congressional incumbents withstand changing political currents. Although parties are more central to the average voter's calculus, images of the incumbents as representatives of the parties, rather than images of the parties themselves, are behind this change. Challenger partisans have grown more dissatisfied with their incumbents as individuals, and have turned to the challenger as a meaningful way to express this dissatisfaction.

Keywords:   vote choice, candidate-centered voting, party-centered voting, challenger partisans, congressional elections, incumbent partisans

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