TitlePushing the limits of democracy
NameAndersen, David J. (author), Lau, Richard R. (chair), Leech, Beth (internal member), Miller, Lisa (internal member), Lodge, Milton (outside member), Rutgers University, Graduate School - New Brunswick,
Political psychology--United States,
Political candidates--Research--United States,
Political science--Decision making
DescriptionRepresentative democracy proposes to give “power to the people” by allowing the electorate to choose its own leadership. However, previous research in Political Science has demonstrated that the American electorate is woefully uninformed, lacking even the most basic political knowledge. Further complicating the problems facing the American electorate is the fact that they are not able to focus upon each vote choice individually, but are asked to learn about various campaigns concurrently and cast their votes all at once on Election Day. This does not rule out the possibility of a successful system of elections, as Political Psychology has also demonstrated that voters are able to make high-quality decisions even with minimal knowledge by relying upon political cues and heuristics, reducing the level of knowledge necessary to make a vote choice. Unfortunately, the vast bulk of this literature focuses upon the electorate’s ability to select a presidential candidate using cues particularly effective for that office, ignoring lower offices and leaving a level of uncertainty about how voters respond to an election environment featuring concurrent campaigns. Using American National Election Study (ANES) survey data over a 20 year period, as well as an original experiment featuring dynamic information boards, this dissertation examines whether the number of elections on the ballot affects how voters search for information about all of the candidates seeking elective office, what voters are able to remember about them, and how they react to the presence of concurrent campaigns. The findings demonstrate that voters are less able to recall candidates for lower offices when higher offices are contested. Additionally, as more offices compete against each other, voters seek out less information about each individual set of candidates, but prioritize learning about higher office candidates over lower office candidates. Finally, this analysis shows that the amount of information a voter views about a candidate directly affects how accurate the perceptions of that candidate are. In sum, this dissertation identifies structural weaknesses present in the American system of elections that limit the ability of voters to focus upon each office equally.
NoteIncludes bibliographical references
Noteby David J. Andersen
CollectionGraduate School - New Brunswick Electronic Theses and Dissertations
Organization NameRutgers, The State University of New Jersey
RightsThe author owns the copyright to this work.