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Information and Elections

R. Michael Alvarez

Publication Year: 1999

R. Michael Alvarez examines how voters make their decisions in presidential elections. He begins with the assumption that voters have neither the incentive nor the inclination to be well-informed about politics and presidential candidates. Candidates themselves have incentives to provide ambiguous information about themselves, their records and their issue positions. Yet the author shows that a tremendous amount of information is made available about presidential candidates. And he uncovers clear and striking evidence that people are not likely to vote for candidates about whom they know very little. Alvarez explores how voters learn about candidates through the course of a campaign. He provides a detailed analysis of the media coverage of presidential campaigns and shows that there is a tremendous amount of media coverage of these campaigns, that much of this coverage is about issues and is informative, and that voters learn from this coverage. The paperback edition of this work has been updated to include information on the 1996 Presidential election. Information and Elections is a book that will be read by all who are interested in campaigns and electoral behavior in presidential and other elections. "Thoughtfully conceptualized, painstakingly analyzed, with empirically significant conclusions on presidential election voting behavior, this book is recommended for both upper-division undergraduate and graduate collections." --Choice R. Michael Alvarez is Associate Professor of Political Science, California Institute of Technology.

Published by: University of Michigan Press

Series: Michigan Studies in Political Analysis


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pp. -

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Preface to the Revised Edition

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pp. vii-viii

It is very exciting to be able to revisit this research project and to have the opportunity to test my theoretical predictions on a sixth presidential election, which completes a two decade cycle of ...

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pp. ix-xi

This book has evolved in two stages. The first stage of this project began with the development of my dissertation at Duke University. John Aldrich, my dissertation adviser, got me rolling on this project, and helped me bring it to successful completion. Peter Lange, while not my dissertation adviser, deserves credit for...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-6

Those who wrote the Constitution might be baffled by modern presidential elections. The system they envisioned certainly had no role for political parties, the mass media, primaries and caucuses, party conventions, or the hundreds of millions of dollars which are spent by the presidential candidates running for office. Rather, they desired that a small number of prominent political ...

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2. Elections, Information, and Campaigns

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pp. 7-24

In the past half-century, political scientists have amassed a great deal of data about presidential elections. However, it is difficult to argue that we are any closer, after this half century of data collection and analysis, to answering some of the critical questions about the role of elections in a democratic society. Do elections constitute a link between constituents and representatives? Can candidates learn...

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3. The Theory of Uncertainty and Elections

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pp. 25-52

As discussed in the previous chapter, voters often appear to be poorly informed about political affairs. In early studies, the findings regarding voter knowledge of political affairs were consistently negative-voters were believed to know little about vital issues of public policy, about where the two parties stood on these issues...

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4. Measuring Uncertainty

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pp. 53-76

The problems of erroneous and unmeasured variables are becoming more apparent in the social sciences as researchers explore empirically new areas and subjects. Many of these new research areas concern theoretical variables ...

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5. Modeling Uncertainty and Voting

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pp. 77-92

To test the hypotheses discussed in chapter 3, accurate measures of perceptual uncertainty are necessary. Unfortunately, while uncertainty has been discussed in the theoretical literature on voting (Enelow and Hinich 1984; Page 1976, 1978; Shepsle 1972), it was, until very...

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6. The Causes of Uncertainty

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pp. 93-108

To test the hypotheses discussed in chapter 3, accurate measures of perceptual uncertainty are necessary. Unfortunately, while uncertainty has been discussed in the theoretical literature on voting (Enelow and Hinich 1984; Page 1976, 1978; Shepsle 1972), it was, until very recently, absent from empirical models of voting behavior. The absence of...

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7. Information, Issues, and Candidate Evaluations

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pp. 109-142

You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time. My first hypothesis about the effect of voter uncertainty about candidate policy positions is that the more uncertain a voter is about the candidate, the less likely they are to support the ...

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8. Information and Voting Decisions

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pp. 143-156

Sometimes presidential candidates clearly enunciate their positions on important policy issues. But often they do not. In chapter 7 I demonstrated that voters in the five presidential elections from 1976-92 behaved as would risk averse individuals, by shunning the candidates they are more uncertain of, and by embracing the candidates they are more certain of. This relationship was shown to...

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9. Campaigns and Uncertainty

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pp. 157-170

The focus of analysis so far in this book has been on the individual voter. Examining microlevel decision making has yielded a number of insights into how information influences voter choice. I have presented a considerable amount of evidence which documents the variation across the voting public in their uncertainty...

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10. The Dynamics of Uncertainty

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pp. 171-202

We have undertaken to teach the voters, as free, independent citizens, intelligent enough to see their rights, interested enough to insist on being treated justly, and patriotic enough to desire their country's welfare. Thus this campaign is one of information ...

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11. Information and Elections

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pp. 203-208

Information is an essential element of representative democracy. The linkage between the governed and the governors is a two-way flow of information, with those who are governed expressing their preferences, and those who are... the governors explaining their activities. Elections are a very important component of representation, a period in which this reciprocal information flow is at the greatest. Elections...

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12. Uncertainty and Issues in the 1996 Campaign

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pp. 209-234

On November 5, 1996, Bill Clinton was reelected for a second term as the president of the United States. Clinton's vote percentage barely squeaked above 50 percent in another three-candidate race, while Bob Dole got 41 percent of the votes cast for president. Ross Perot, running now at the helm of the new Reform Party...


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pp. 235-272


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pp. 273-282


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pp. 283-287

E-ISBN-13: 9780472022373
E-ISBN-10: 0472022377
Print-ISBN-13: 9780472085750
Print-ISBN-10: 0472085751

Page Count: 288
Illustrations: 48 tables, 40 figures
Publication Year: 1999

Series Title: Michigan Studies in Political Analysis
See more Books in this Series

OCLC Number: 642206227
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Information and Elections

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Communication in politics -- United States.
  • Presidents -- United States -- Election.
  • Voting -- United States.
  • Political campaigns -- United States.
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