On Voter Competence

ISBN-10: 0195396146
ISBN-13: 9780195396140
Edition: 2012
Authors: Paul Goren
List price: $67.00
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Description: A half century of research shows that most citizens are shockingly uninformed about public affairs, liberal-conservative ideologies, and the issues of the day. This has led most scholars to condemn typical American voters as politically brainless  More...

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Book details

List price: $67.00
Copyright year: 2012
Publisher: Oxford University Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 9/21/2012
Binding: Hardcover
Pages: 288
Size: 6.50" wide x 9.75" long x 1.00" tall
Weight: 1.210

A half century of research shows that most citizens are shockingly uninformed about public affairs, liberal-conservative ideologies, and the issues of the day. This has led most scholars to condemn typical American voters as politically brainless and to conclude that policy voting lies beyond their reach. On Voter Competence breaks sharply from this view. According to Paul Goren, people vote based on abstract policy principles, a practice that has escaped scholars because they have searched for evidence of policy voting in the wrong places. Once we turn away from liberal-conservative predispositions and issue preferences, we find that nearly everyone holds genuine policy principles and uses these to guide their votes on election day.Three key principles divide the Democratic and Republican parties: limited government, traditional morality, and military strength. Deftly integrating research in social and political history, social and political psychology, and electoral behavior, Goren argues that nearly all citizens keep these principles in mind. The principles function as central heuristics in their belief systems, are rooted deeply in basic human values, and guide presidential choice to a similar degree for voters across the sophistication spectrum. Goren's comprehensive analysis of opinion data from the past six presidential elections and several new national surveys yields unequivocal support for these claims.Contrary to the indictment leveled by most of the scholarly community and political pundits more generally, ordinary citizens who are neither deeply knowledgeable nor engaged with the world of public affairs prove as adept as their more sophisticated counterparts in grounding presidential votes in abstract views about public policy. Insofar as citizen competence can be equated with the development and use of bedrock principles, the American voter performs far better than has been recognized in the past.

Acknowledgments
The Indictment of the American Voter
Policy Cleavages in Historical Context
Policy Attitudes and Political Sophistication
The Three Faces of Policy Voting
The Availability of Policy Principles
The Centrality of Policy Principles
The Origins of Policy Principles
The Electoral Consequences of Policy Principles
The Exoneration of the American Voter?
Appendix: Measurement of Key Variables
References
Index

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