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Yes WE Can or Yes HE Can? Citizen Preferences Regarding Styles of Representation and Presidential Voting Behavior


  • AUTHORS' NOTE: Both authors contributed equally to this paper. We thank the University of Pittsburgh and the John Anderson Research Lectureship fund at the University of Strathclyde for providing funding for our surveys.

David C. Barker is an associate professor of political science at the University of Pittsburgh and the author of Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion, and American Political Behavior.

Christopher Jan Carman is the John Anderson Senior Research Lecturer in the Government Department at the University of Strathclyde (Glasgow, Scotland) and serves as the deputy director of Strathclyde's Centre for Elections and Representation Studies.


This paper considers the manner and extent to which citizens' preferences regarding styles of political representation influence electoral choices, at both the nominating and the general election stages. Using unique survey data gathered for the purpose of examining this question, the authors focus on the 2008 presidential election cycle as an analytical case. They find considerable evidence that Democratic voters are more likely than Republicans to prefer a president who follows the wishes of the American public when it comes to making policy. Republicans, by contrast, are more inclined to expect a president to ignore public opinion, listening instead to his or her internal conscience. The authors speculate that this pattern helped John McCain capture the Republican presidential nomination, but diminished his chances of defeating Barack Obama in the fall.