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Issue Voting and Crime in Gubernatorial Elections


  • *Direct correspondence to Jeff Cummins, Department of Political Science, California State University, Fresno 2225 E. San Ramon M/S MF 19, Fresno, CA 93740-8029 〈〉. All data and coding information are available upon request from the author. A previous version of this article was presented at the 2000 Annual Meeting of the Western Political Science Association. The author thanks Aaren Cobb for his research assistance.


Objective. Research on gubernatorial elections has focused extensively on the impact of the economy, ignoring other noneconomic issues that voters may consider when casting their ballots. This article examines the impact of one such noneconomic issue, crime, to determine whether voters hold governors accountable for crime rates and, if so, whether they incorporate national- or state-level conditions. In addition, I investigate whether more educated segments of the electorate are likely to engage in issue voting.

Methods. I empirically analyze these propositions using aggregate-level data on gubernatorial elections from 1986–2004.

Results. The data analysis reveals that crime significantly influences gubernatorial races, voters consider state- rather than national-level conditions, and that crime rates have a larger impact in states with a more educated population.

Conclusion. Future inquiries should explore other noneconomic issues at the national and subnational levels to determine the breadth of issues that impact elections.

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