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CHAPTER 4 Economic Conditions and Voting on Ballot Propositions As noted in earlier chapters, theories of voting under limited information suggest that different voters utilize different cues and shortcuts when reasoning about politics. In particular, well-educated voters simply use more information. We also find that the highly educated are more likely to say that elite endorsements will impact their choices and that the strong partisans among them are more likely to be influenced by elite positions on ballot measures. Voters with higher levels of education thus appear to reason differently than do other voters. Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock (1991) demonstrate that voters with greater cognitive abilities do not simply use more information when deciding what they are for or against politically. They also use different information shortcuts. They think in ways that might be seen as more sophisticated, if not in ways that are more cognitively complex. Ideology, as we mentioned in chapter 2, allows some voters to think about politics-and ballot propositions-in terms of complex abstractions such as liberalism and conservatism. From the behavioral perspective , political ideology has been defined as "a set of inter-related attitudes that fit together into some coherent and consistent view or orientation toward the political world" (Flanigan and Zingale 1994, 131). It is a "constrained" belief system (Converse 1964) or a store of conceptual political information that allows some voters to reason about the individual issues of the day. Just as voters with greater cognitive abilities might be better suited for linking elite endorsements to party, they should also be more capable of evaluating propositions in terms of their self-identified ideology. But what of voters with less-than-average cognitive abilities? Voters with different cognitive abilities can reason differently when evaluating the same proposition. We know (as we saw in the previous chapter) that the less educated have fewer information sources and that the opinions that less-educated voters have on ballot issues are influenced less by groups and elites, at least in their propensity to associate these cues with their own party attachments . Likewise, Kuklinski, Metlay, and Kay (1982) found that less-educated voters might have a harder time making accurate assessments of the positions that groups take on a ballot proposition. Behavioral research has also held that ideological responses to issues-reasoning on the basis of some general ori67 68 Demanding Choices entation about the political world-is difficult for people with less-developed cognitive abilities (Converse 1964). Others (Sniderman, Brody, and Tetlock 1991; Sears, Hensler, and Speer 1979) suggest that ideology has an affective or symbolic component that allows the less educated to reason about politics on the basis of their ideological dispositions. If we assume that ideology does have a cognitive aspect, we should expect that less-educated voters approach proposition elections far differently than do other voters. They may often have less information and less opportunity to use standing belief systems when making choices. We suggest that when in doubt and faced with great information demands, many voters use no voting as a default when evaluating propositions. If we assume that no voting is in fact associated with doubt and uncertainty, then we must consider how negative voting is used more frequently by those voters with fewer cognitive resources. This does not mean that the less educated or less informed cannot reason about direct democracy measures, but rather that they might reason differently. We suggest that because they have fewer information resources and therefore less capacity to use party or ideology to evaluate propositions , less-educated voters tum to another shortcut: evaluations of the condition of the state's economy. Substantial scholarly attention has been directed at the relationship between economic conditions and voting in national elections (e.g., Kramer 1971; Lewis-Beck 1988). Indeed, economic conditions are thought to be one of the major cues that voters use to form decisions in candidate races. In demonstrating that American voters are not "fools," V. O. Key (1966) noted that retrospective evaluations of the economy were one subtle manifestation ofissue voting in the mass electorate. Despite the wealth of studies addressing the interplay between economic conditions and voting, limited attention has been directed toward the question of how these conditions might affect support for ballot propositions. This lack of attention is not surprising, considering that economic evaluations applied by voters are typically seen as retrospective. In direct-democracy elections, voters would obviously need to use something other than retrospective judgments such as "Am I better...


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