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Getting Lost on the Way to the Party: Ambivalence, Indifference, and Defection with Evidence from Two Presidential Elections


  • Judd R. Thornton

    Corresponding author
    1. Georgia State University
    • Direct correspondence to Judd R. Thornton, Political Science Department, Georgia State University, 38 Peachtree Center Avenue, Suite 1013, Atlanta, GA 30303 〈〉.

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  • All data and coding are available from the author for replication purposes. The author wishes to thank William G. Jacoby, Paul Abramson, Matt Grossmann, Jason Reifler, Robert Lupton, and William Myers for helpful comments.



Building on work noting the difference between ambivalence and indifference, and long-standing theories of partisanship, this article seeks to examine the extent to which ambivalence and indifference differ in their impact on the likelihood of individuals defecting from their party when voting.


Examining two national surveys, the voting behavior of ambivalent, indifferent, and one-sided individuals are compared.


It is shown that indifferent individuals are the most likely to defect from their partisanship and vote for the other major party or a third party and one-sided the least.


Those who are indifferent toward the parties are distinct from those with one-sided or ambivalent evaluations, and this difference leads to a greater likelihood of voting against one's party in presidential elections.