Every four years, Americans elect a president through the curious institution called the Electoral College. As a result of its structure, which prioritizes states over individual votes, presidential candidates focus on only a handful of states, the so-called battleground states, while virtually ignoring the rest of the country. In this dissertation, I examine the consequences of this campaign strategy for voters' post-election attitudes toward politics and U.S. senators' voting behavior immediately after the election.
Using public opinion data from the National Election Studies and the National Annenberg Election Survey, I find that the differences in levels of trust, efficacy, and interest between safe and battleground state residents are minimal. However, when accounting for differences in states' political cultures, I detect battleground effects. Voters living in states with more traditional political cultures are hardly affected by candidates' battleground strategies whereas voters in states with moralistic political cultures are more efficacious, trusting, and interested in politics when their state is also a battleground state.
The particulars of presidential campaign strategies also subtly affect senators' roll call voting. Senators who share the president's party and represent battleground states are slightly more supportive of presidential policy positions than those representing safe states. I propose that these senators returned favors they enjoyed during the campaign season. Moreover, if they ran for reelection themselves, they are even more supportive.
This dissertation shows candidates' battleground strategies have effects that extend beyond Election Day at both the elite and mass levels, thereby expanding our conception and understanding of the role of presidential elections and campaign effects in American politics.
University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2009. Major: Political Science. Advisor: John L. Sullivan. 1 computer file (PDF); v, 219 pages, appendix leaves 208-219.
The battleground effect: how the Electoral College shapes post-election political attitudes and behavior..
Retrieved from the University of Minnesota Digital Conservancy,
Content distributed via the University of Minnesota's Digital Conservancy may be subject to additional license and use restrictions applied by the depositor.