Swing Voters or Core Partisans? Ideological Groups and the Vote for President, 1960-2008

Hovannes Abramyan

Reason Foundation


APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper

With the emergence of cultural issues onto the national political agenda in the 1960s came an opportunity to classify members of the American public into discrete ideological groups beyond "liberals" and "conservatives." Using ANES survey data from all presidential election years between 1960 and 2008, I demonstrate that political attitudes are structured in terms of multiple dimensions, that these dimensions help us consistently classify four ideological groups (liberals, conservatives, libertarians, and communitarian populists), and that these ideological groups do not all play the same role in electoral politics. Liberals and conservatives are the core supporters of the Democratic and Republican Parties, respectively, and have increased in partisan loyalty since the sixties. Libertarians and communitarian populists, on the other hand, have been more prone to splitting support within elections and fluctuating in levels of partisan support across elections, despite apparently not differing much in attachment to the parties as compared to liberals and conservatives.

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Date posted: August 1, 2011 ; Last revised: October 7, 2016

Suggested Citation

Abramyan, Hovannes, Swing Voters or Core Partisans? Ideological Groups and the Vote for President, 1960-2008 (2011). APSA 2011 Annual Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1901768

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Hovannes Abramyan (Contact Author)
Reason Foundation ( email )
United States
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