Running to the Right: Effects of Campaign Strategy on Mass Opinion and Behavior
Diana C. Mutz
University of Pennsylvania - Department of Political Science
University of Pennsylvania - Annenberg School for Communication
APSA 2010 Annual Meeting Paper
In this chapter we draw on evidence from the 2008 general election to evaluate the effects of Republican John McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as a vice-presidential running mate. Our interest is not in Palin, nor in vice-presidential candidates, per se, but rather in what this particular case tells us about the electoral effects of an abrupt change in a presidential candidate’s perceived ideological position. Immediately after Palin’s selection, the relatively stable perceptions of McCain’s ideology shifted in a more conservative direction. Palin’s selection served as an effective ideological cue, signaling that the candidate was more conservative than previously thought.
McCain’s choice was widely interpreted by the press as a purposeful abandonment of the center in favor of energizing the conservative Republican base, a move that flies in the face of median voter theory. But whether his shift in perceived ideological position served as a net plus to energize those already in his camp, or a net negative – distancing him from a larger group of potential supporters – remains to be seen. Using panel data, we analyze the effects of this perceived shift on candidate preference and turnout.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 36
Date posted: July 19, 2010 ; Last revised: August 14, 2010