chapter  4
16 Pages

Explaining the Vote

WithCharles L. Prysby

To best understand how and why people decided to vote for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, this chapter begins by considering the major factors that influence the presidential vote decision. A very basic model of voting behavior views the vote as affected by both stable, or long-term, political orientations and election-specific, or short-term, attitudes. Moreover, independent voters are heavily influenced by these attitudes, which explain why their vote often shifts substantially from one presidential election to the next. Three major short-term attitudes shape voting behavior: (a) evaluations of government performance, particularly regarding the incumbent President; (b) attitudes on public policy issues; and (c) assessments of the personal characteristics of the candidates. Party identification and ideology are the important stable orientations, stable in the sense that few voters change their party identification or ideology much from one year to the next. On issues of public policy, Trump was at best even with Clinton and perhaps a little behind.