Perceptions of Polarization: Examining Voter Responses to Candidate Extremity

28 Pages Posted: 9 Apr 2013

See all articles by Neil Visalvanich

Neil Visalvanich

Durham University - School of Government and International Affairs

Nicole Bonoff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Date Written: April 6, 2013

Abstract

In this paper we test whether voters are able to meaningfully perceive the ideological distance between their Congressional candidates. Using district level survey data from the 2010 Cooperative Congressional Elections Studies in conjunction with a new measure of candidate ideal point estimation, we examine whether voters can perceive the polarization of their Congressional candidates. We find there is a significant relationship between a candidate's ideological extremity and a voter's ability to perceive this extremity, and that this relationship is stronger with Congressional incumbents as well as Republican candidates. Our findings suggest that the Republican party label has become more ideologically informative for voters, which is in keeping with the ideological leanings of Republican candidates, who tend to be uniformly conservative. Democrats, on the other hand, are more ideologically disperse, and voters have a more difficult time ideologically placing their Democratic candidates.

Keywords: polarization, Congressional elections

Suggested Citation

Visalvanich, Neil and Bonoff, Nicole, Perceptions of Polarization: Examining Voter Responses to Candidate Extremity (April 6, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2246947 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2246947

Neil Visalvanich (Contact Author)

Durham University - School of Government and International Affairs ( email )

Durham, DH1 3HP
United Kingdom

Nicole Bonoff

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

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