Ambivalence, information, and electoral choice

Scott J. Basinger, Howard Lavine

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

174 Scopus citations


Conventional wisdom views voter choice in House elections as preordained by party identification, incumbency, and perceptions of national conditions. In an analysis of voter behavior in House elections between 1990 and 2000, we find instead that voters are quite heterogeneous. Voters who hold ambivalent partisan attitudes, who typically constitute 30% of the electorate, reduce their reliance on party identification; this effect is entirely independent of the strength of identification. Individuals holding ambivalent partisan attitudes that both lack political knowledge and are presented with little campaign stimulus are more likely to engage in economic voting. Individuals holding ambivalent partisan attitudes that either are knowledgeable about politics or are presented with stimulating campaigns are more likely to engage in ideological voting. Thus, campaign competition and national partisan competition each play a role in assuring that ordinary voters may participate meaningfully in the political process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)169-184
Number of pages16
JournalAmerican Political Science Review
Issue number2
StatePublished - May 2005


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