Checks and Choices: The House Bank Scandal's Impact on Voters in 1992
Posted: 8 Jul 2008
Date Written: November 1995
Analysis of the 1992 American National Election Study (ANES) data indicates that the House bank scandal reduced the vote for House incumbents by approximately five percentage points. The scandal mainly affected the small subset of voters who were most offended by bank overdrafts and who did not assume that their representative had a clean record. Fortunately for members who had written bad checks, voters who knew about the transgression were least disposed to be outraged by it, while the voters most disposed to outrage were also most inclined to believe the guilty were innocent. The explanation for these curious patterns is that voters who faced the option of condemning an incumbent they otherwise appreciated or dismissing the offense as inconsequential often chose the latter course. The damage was also moderated by partisanship; voters of the incumbent's party showed a strong tendency to err in the incumbent's favor in assessing involvement in the scandal. The classical theory of cognitive dissonance readily explains both phenomena.
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