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Information, Activation, and Electoral Competition in the 2002 Congressional Elections


Robert Huckfeldt is Distinguished Professor of Political Science, University of California, Davis, Davis, CA 95616. Edward G. Carmines is Warner O. Chapman Professor and Rudy Professor of Political Science, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405. Jeffery J. Mondak is James M. Benson Chair and Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana, IL 61801. Eric Zeemering is assistant professor of public administration, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, CA 94132.


Although uncompetitive races for the House of Representatives produce formidable challenges to long-held democratic ideals regarding popular control and meaningful citizen involvement, little is known regarding the significance of variance in district-level competitiveness for the perceptions and behaviors of voters. Do citizens know that the outcomes of most U.S. House elections are foregone conclusions? Does the actual political climate of the district influence citizens' perceptions regarding electoral competitiveness, and, ultimately, the decision to vote? Does campaign activity influence citizens' perceptions? Do these various perceptions and behaviors hinge in part on the citizen's level of political knowledge? These questions are addressed through analysis of data from a study that oversamples citizens located in competitive House districts during the 2002 midterm election.