An Exploration of Correct Voting in Recent U.S. Presidential Elections

Authors


  • An earlier version of this article was presented at the 2006 Midwest Political Science Association. Please address all correspondence to Professor Richard R. Lau.

Richard R. Lau is professor of political science, Rutgers University, 89 George St., New Brunswick, NJ 08903 (ricklau@rci.rutgers.edu). David J. Andersen is a graduate student in political science, Rutgers University, 89 George St., New Brunswick, NJ 08903 (davander@eden.rutgers.edu). David P. Redlawsk is professor of political science, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242 (david-redlawsk@uiowa.edu).

Abstract

Lau and Redlawsk (1997)proposed that the quality of voter decision making can be evaluated by measuring what they called correct voting—the extent to which people vote in accordance with their own values and priorities—but in so doing provided little guidance about what actually determines whether voters can make such high-quality decisions. This article develops a framework for analyzing the vote decision that views the quality of decision making as a joint function of individual characteristics and various higher-level campaign factors. We hypothesize that differences in cognitive capacity, political motivation, the availability of political heuristics, and macrolevel factors that affect the difficulty of the choice confronting citizens, including the nature of the political information environment, should all affect the probability of a correct vote. We find significant support for seven proposed hypotheses across three levels of analysis, which places responsibility for incorrect votes on both the individual and our electoral system.

Ancillary