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Man Bites Blue Dog: Are Moderates Really More Electable than Ideologues?

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Abstract

Are ideologically moderate candidates more electable than ideologically extreme candidates? Historically, both research in political science and conventional wisdom answer yes to this question. However, given the rise of ideologues on both the right and the left in recent years, it is important to consider whether this assumption is still accurate. I find that, while moderates have historically enjoyed an advantage over ideologically extreme candidates in Congressional elections, this gap has disappeared in recent years, where moderates and ideologically extreme candidates are equally likely to be elected. This change persists for both Democratic and Republican candidates.
Man Bites Blue Dog: Are Moderates
Really More Electable than Ideologues?




Abstract: 
 !
""# "!
!
"$%
!"&
'!
!"
#()
*+
Keywords,$!!-!
Running header: *
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$*./012
(",$(134.
"
56!"
"!($(
"(

+%57*
*8,99999&:
3
'"
            !  !  

'!
!"
!          "        8*"
4;20: "!!
          !    )    
  +        *!       
  !"  "
        *      *  
( +!
2<133.1=1343!"&4<134<
$!!+>
!"*>
8'!+133=:
"!"
 (       )  
',
            
8"-!    ?  @  1332:!      (  
        87"    @  133=:!  
8! 
4
    1330:!  !          !      
   - 8A( 134=:  
          
!      B    "(        
""
How Ideology Can Inuence Electoral Success
        (          
  C     
 $! "(   
!
"    (          8*"  4;20:   D  
    "            
8133<: "!
!
!8! 1330:! 
    (         8  1342:  E
 !"
      8    : E
    "  !              
        "    !      
8 1342:6>
"                  

5
"!      "   
>    )!            
!  "                  
  "
       >  
  "  B  8@
4;;.:)
!            >    @  8133<:
!"(
 $!
!        
!85
1342:  )      "  "          
!                  

EF7
")"
+  !  "              
* )         
+8+1342:G!
!
""
  C      (  "      
6
            B  8  1340:
!                  )  
HIC"
+  8*:        !      
*  8+:          )   
!
              
8!@134=:

    -      
E
8  !      (        
          :!          
    -      4;.3          8"-
1343: 7         
  -!              -  !
86133<:$
     !    
"   7 !
candidates >  !
"
)                    
          $      
7

 !      "   
8A(  133;J  K  134<:  $!          
  "  4;01    1341  8A(  134=:   )        
      "        8"-  
E  134=:  !  >  -!    (      B
! " 8A( 134=J
134.:  E                "      
  -!          -        
!

KB              #
  "            !    "
(*K'H
I +!   * )! ) '-!  
'!      134=    !  "  "  "    
8134=:+"
!
believe       )              C    !
            (   "
!"("*
("(!!
8
    !          !  

Methods and Results
        *    $!      !  
G8*$G:8134/:4;.3B1341!$>
              8134/:L    
                )
!(*EBK7$K)G!
        #           '  

)">
 (   "  4 $   8134<:L
'61   ! "     
1 !$
 $"
+*!
"(>
&
2)'6!"
"8134<:
!"
6
!'68r M;1:B
9
!"$
!!!$
      B  ! Ideological Extremity!  "  
33348 : <;.48: )
  3.1=!"   3/.. $ 
! Year, "384;.3:/181341:!
      "        )        
        (          !  $
Ideological Extremity Year.
$    "              8134/:
)% ! Winning Election!"(
4"!-"$
                  ! Vote
Share!)3433!"
2/<413//$!$
      !  "            
!  "            !      
10
!       /  
B  %  >!              
' B  +     
64
)        L  >        
"                $  %  
   ( " 
! " 
 (  "$ %      
("!>
    )     
("!
" "# ( " C  "
13N (" 4;.3! "
 "  .3N (  " "!  133.!
     
    (    "   !  "      
"      23N      )        
(
" 
+L>
61!"$4;.3!
""<3N
11
!"""=3N)
   23N   !    133. 
1341!                  
8:
"!
  !                
+ 6 '! "  1.N  ! A
O(84.N:D810N:$1343
  1341!  "              "!  
*)"E+
5@@
0 .2 .4 .6 .8
Probability of Winning
1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012
Year
Strength of Ideology = 0 Strength of Ideology = 3
Figure 1. Ideology and Electability 1980-2012
30 40 50 60 70
Vote Share
1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012
Year
Strength of Ideology = 0 Strength of Ideology = 3
Figure 2. Ideology and Vote Share 1980-2012
12
0 .2 .4 .6 .8
Probability of Winning
1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012
Year
Strength of Ideology = 0 Strength of Ideology = 3
Figure 3. Ideology and Electability 1980-2012 - Repub licans
0 .2 .4 .6 .8
Probability of Winning
1980 1984 1988 1992 1996 2000 2004 2008 2012
Year
Strength of Ideology = 0 Strength of Ideology = 3
Figure 4. Ideology and Electability 1980-2012 - Democrats
13
6  /    <<             
"! ("  
%!>+*8
        *:  $            
!"(!"
"(1343!>"
"!
    " #(  
 )  
    !      *    +  "  
&

Discussion and conclusion
$!"
!!(!
""
#(')
#$
"
"(""

7!
""
14
("
$
advantaged!
disadvantaged)
*
!
!("
!!"
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References
"-!$4;.;D!G!''
G,)'Journal of
Politics248<:,;00C;;1
"-!$1343The disappearing center: Engaged citizens,
polarization, and American democracy. K" ,O

"-!$!"@1332
H$!+!*'
GIJournal of Politics =.84:,02B..
15
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politics 118<:,<<3B<24
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GIBritish Journal of Political Science/<81:,144C110
*"!4;20An Economic Theory of DemocracyK"O(,
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war? The myth of polarized America. K"O(,
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organization 4<81:,/3<B/1<
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16
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American Political Science Review 43;84:,4.B<1
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008/:,.=4B.0/
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A(!"133;The partisan sort: How liberals became
Democrats and conservatives became Republicans. ',
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America: The Dance of Ideology and Unequal Riches'!,
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<20B<04
K! 134<Political ideologies and political parties in America.
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... Party polarization has eroded the notion that politicians need to govern from the centre. 110 The alternation of presidents from the extremes of the American political spectrum will give each incumbent an incentive to reverse his or her predecessor's policies. Grand strategy could follow the pattern of the 'Mexico City' policy, in which Republican and Democratic presidents flipflop rules governing support for foreign family planning NGOs on party lines. ...
Article
There has been a renaissance in the study of how the backgrounds of individual leaders affect foreign policy outcomes. Donald Trump's presidency highlights the limits of this approach. Trump's psychology is so unique, and so akin to that of a small child, that studying his background alone is insufficient to explain his decision-making. The evidence for this characterization of Trump's leadership comes not from his political opponents, but his allies, staffers and subordinates. Trump's lack of impulse control, short attention span and frequent temper tantrums have all undercut his effectiveness as president as compared to his predecessors. Nonetheless, the 45th president helps to clarify ongoing debates in American politics about the relative strength of the presidency as an institution. In particular, the powers of the presidency have become so enhanced that even comparatively weak and inexperienced leaders can execute dramatic policy shifts. The formal checks on presidential power, from the legislative, judicial and executive branches have all eroded. Similarly, the informal checks on the presidency had also degraded before Trump's inauguration. This article uses Trump's presidency—and his severe limitations as a decision-maker—to highlight the ways in which even a weak leader can affect change by holding a powerful office.
Article
Democracies face rising concerns about extremism. At the same time, citizens and political actors define extremism in different ways with different consequences. In light of this, what do American citizens and elected officials consider to be extreme, and what political penalties are associated with extreme behavior and beliefs? To answer these questions, we rely on three surveys, two of the American public and one with American elected officials. Respondents' open-ended definitions of extremism and two conjoint experiments suggest that Americans do have ideas about extremism that correspond to research and theorizing about democracy – focusing, for example, on spatial extremity and an unwillingness to listen to others. However, the use of these standards is slanted in favor of one's own political position and does not indicate a robust recognition or rejection of many normatively troubling forms of extremism.
Article
Although there is clear evidence of growing ideological divides between the Democratic and Republican Parties, there is a lack of consensus about how this polarization impacts political participation. Using data from the 2010–2018 election cycles, we test how candidates’ distances from each other and distances from constituents are related to both voting and non-voting behavior. We fail to find evidence that the distance between candidates in and of itself depresses activity. Distance from a copartisan candidate can lower the likelihood of participation, but this is often offset by the greater likelihood of participation that comes with increased distance from an outparty candidate. Together, these results suggest that rather than demobilizing potential voters, polarization is instead motivating individuals by clarifying which candidate they do not want. Such findings are consistent with evidence of significant levels of negative partisanship and offer further insight into how candidate positioning impacts the electorate.
Article
Though extremism generally carries a negative connotation, ideological extremity can also send positive signals about a candidate’s personal characteristics. Data from the 2010 US House elections show that among a candidate’s copartisans, ideological extremity is associated with higher ratings of his or her competence and integrity. These findings hold even when accounting for distance from the respondent, distance from the district, and party unity. In addition, experimental evidence that better speaks to the causal relationship between ideology and quality shows that these results generalize beyond the 2010 contest. Overall, these findings add to understanding of how individuals form impressions of candidate traits and speak to continued extremity at the elite level, as they suggest that voters may still find value in positions even if they do not match their own.
Article
This research investigates the roles of issues, traits, and electability in the 2020 U.S. presidential nominating contest. These analyses utilize survey data gathered at political rallies in Iowa leading up to the caucuses and state and national news coverage. First, we identified the traits and issues respondents used to describe their support for a particular Democratic candidate over others. Next, we determined how issues, traits, and electability differed among the candidates. Finally, an analysis of news coverage uncovered how each candidate’s electability was framed. We found supporters of moderate candidates were more likely to mention candidate traits as reasons for their support, whereas supporters of progressive candidates were more likely to mention issues. Despite the media focus on electability, respondents did not indicate that as a primary reason for supporting a candidate. State and national news coverage treated the electability of Democrats vying for the party nomination quite differently, depending on the candidate’s gender and ideology.
Article
In recent years, ideological candidates for the U.S. House have become increasingly successful, to the point where their chances of being elected are indistinguishable from moderates. However, scholars have still not uncovered exactly why this is happening. Using survey data from the American National Election Studies, I find that voter-centric explanations of vote choice – a voter's partisanship, ideology, and presidential approval rating – have increasingly predicted their vote choice in U.S. House elections from 1980 to 2016. Using data on candidate ideology, I find that candidate ideology is an increasingly poor predictor of individual vote choice over time. Original experimental data supports these claims, finding only a small electoral advantage for moderates, compared to ideologues of their own party, and evidence suggesting that, at least among Democrats, ideological candidates are rated more favorably than moderates. Taken together, these results suggest that the increased electoral success of ideological candidates can be attributed to changes in voters' decision calculus, rather than structural or candidate-centric explanations.
Article
We examine how differences in the institutions that regulate candidate nomination procedures, specifically direct primary election laws, affect the types of candidates elected in nonpresidential American elections. We hypothesize that in more closed primary systems, control over candidate nominations by ideological extremists will translate into a higher likelihood that extreme candidates win in the general election. We hypothesize that in more open systems, participation by a wider spectrum of the electorate means that candidates must appeal to more moderate voters, leading to the election of more moderate candidates. Using pooled cross-section time-series regression analysis, we find that U.S. representatives from states with closed primaries take policy positions that are furthest from their district's estimated median voter's ideal positions. Representatives from states with semi-closed primaries are the most moderate. We conclude that the costs of strategic behavior created by electoral institutions have important consequences for electoral outcomes. Copyright 1998 by Oxford University Press.