AUTHOR'S NOTE: I wish to thank Ira Katznelson, Kurt Weyland, and Robert Erikson for their essential feedback and advice. The comments of the anonymous reviewers were especially helpful as well.
Situational Gamblers: Prospect Theory and the Commonalities of Presidential Campaign Management
Article first published online: 11 JAN 2011
© 2011 Center for the Study of the Presidency
Presidential Studies Quarterly
Volume 41, Issue 1, pages 64–92, March 2011
How to Cite
O'CONNELL, D. (2011), Situational Gamblers: Prospect Theory and the Commonalities of Presidential Campaign Management. Presidential Studies Quarterly, 41: 64–92. doi: 10.1111/j.1741-5705.2010.03831.x
- Issue published online: 11 JAN 2011
- Article first published online: 11 JAN 2011
In this article, prospect theory helps shed light on an underdeveloped topic in political science: the management strategies of presidential campaigns. In particular, prospect theory is used to understand critical decisions made by the campaigns of Edward Kennedy, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, and George H. W. Bush during three critical junctures of the 1980 presidential primary season. Prospect theory's central finding—that individuals are risk averse when facing gains and risk acceptant when facing losses—provides a systematic and empirically grounded explanation for seemingly puzzling decisions made by each campaign. In a broad sense, this essay begins the process of developing a general perspective on presidential campaign management.