Voter behavior can explain midterm mood shift

October 29, 2010

Based on news accounts predicting Republican gains in both houses of Congress and more energized GOP voters in Tuesday's midterm election, it appears as though the nation's political landscape could change again -- just two years after the Democrats won sweeping victories while promoting change on the campaign trail.

So why the potential shift among the American electorate? Dave Peterson, an Iowa State University associate professor of political science and researcher on voter behavior, has seen the country's political mood change for a variety of reasons.

"The Democrats in 2008 did about as well as they could have possibly imagined," said Peterson, author of a 2009 American Journal of Political Science study on campaign learning and vote determinants. "In 2006 and 2008, their success rate was ridiculously high and they won basically every winnable district in America. And so at some point, there has to be a sort of regression to the mean -- a give back to the Republicans -- just because it's unsustainable to have a string of elections that are that one-sided.

"Top it off with a really bad economy where the incumbent party's going to get blamed, and then they (the Democrats) are in a lot of trouble," he said.

How expectations influence voters

Some political pundits have suggested that expectations were too high for President Obama to fix the nation's serious so quickly, resulting in the current backlash against the party in power. Zlatan Krizan, an Iowa State assistant professor of psychology, studied the expectations and preferences of student voters heading into the 2008 presidential election in a study he published earlier this year in . The paper looked at how expectations and preferences interrelate among voters over time prior to the election.

"And basically what the paper shows is that over the last month, when the final sorting occurs, people's expectations end up neatly falling in terms of where their preferences are -- controlling for their prior preferences," Krizan said. "So it would stand to reason that in this election, people's expectations are higher for some of the Republicans because there's a perceived disappointment with their recent Democratic choices."

Another reason the Democrats may be in trouble with voters, according to Peterson, is because some of their brightest stars may have strategically chosen not to run.

"A lot of what determines the shape of Congress is which side gets better candidates for open seats, or better challengers. And these people choosing to run are strategic," Peterson said. "And so if you were a Republican on the fence in 2006 or 2008, running and losing makes you less viable as a future candidate in some respects. So to a certain extent, you have some people waiting until the time is better.

"By contrast, every Democrat who was thinking about running for Congress ran in 2006 and 2008," he continued. "So in addition to the two massive waves giving the Democrats all the empty seats, it also emptied the bench, so to speak, because everyone who thought about running should have chosen those two years. And the Republicans have been holding back and not running as much, and so this is the year where every good candidate for the Republicans should come out of the woodwork and challenge those Democratic incumbents."

Optimism in the face of defeat

Regardless of their strategic reasons for running, the campaign still may not go as planned for some candidates. Krizan says voters remain optimistic about their candidate's chances, even when polling numbers suggest defeat. And he theorizes there may be a couple of reasons for that:

1. Pre-existing knowledge on the candidate. "This knowledge may lead you to like the candidate more and also lead you to conclude that other people will like the candidate more and be more likely to vote for them," he said. "That's why you expect the candidate to win."

2. The biased sampling idea. "People tend to gravitate to other people who think like them, so when they try and extrapolate how they think the general public will vote, they use their like-minded acquaintances as their basis," Krizan said. "We sort of correct for that and realize that other people are not like people we know, but we tend to under correct. So we still get a skewed picture of how other people are likely to vote."

But by Tuesday night, the nation will get a clear picture of where voters currently stand.

Explore further: Researcher: Former Bush voters could determine outcome in 2012 presidential elections

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not rated yet Oct 29, 2010
Republicrats seem to get all the attention which is a shame. Seems to be forgotten that true change is possible by voting third party lines.
not rated yet Oct 29, 2010
Thatcher and Reagan faced significant economic and foreign threats when elected. They had optimism and a plan.
The democrats have no plan and no optimism. It is quite simple.
not rated yet Oct 29, 2010
Another sign of the 'mood shift':
"Those who are constantly telling us that our economic problems are caused by not enough "regulation" never distinguish between regulation which simply enforces known rules, as contrasted with regulation that gives arbitrary powers to the government to force others to knuckle under to demands that have nothing to do with the ostensible purposes of the regulation."
"But the power to grant waivers is the power to withhold waivers-- an arbitrary power that can impose millions of dollars in costs on businesses that the administration doesn't like."
"History tells us where giving government one arbitrary power after another leads. "
not rated yet Oct 31, 2010
"“There’s a strong feeling that this government really lacks direction,” says Gary Shapiro, the head of the Consumer Electronics Association. Many of its 2,000 members, he adds, are unwilling to invest in new initiatives while there is so much uncertainty about future policy. "
"Another source of friction is the reluctance in Washington to reduce hefty taxes on foreign earnings repatriated to America. As many American tech firms make a large share of their revenue and profit outside the country, they are particularly exercised by the government’s reluctance to lighten this burden. "
"tech leaders have been outraged by Mr Obama’s willingness to demonise employers for outsourcing work to foreign countries, which is especially popular within the IT industry, and by his grating sermons on the evils of corporate greed. “We’re praised for creating jobs, while being spanked at the same time,..."
5 / 5 (44) Oct 31, 2010
This "study" makes clear what the real reason is only because it is obvious what it leaves out. Peterson is bias or clueless.

Now with the novelty election over, the elections are back to normal, where voters focus on what matters. America is center right, which means against big government and constant threats of social engineering by over spending liberals, who redistribute what little Americans are able to save, by devaluing the dollar.
Notice how the left try to conjure up all kinds of reasons except the pain truth, for why their ideas are rejected.
not rated yet Nov 02, 2010
repugnantcans are greedy, ignorant, gullable, paraonoid, prudish, selfish, intolerant, short-sided, or all the above.
5 / 5 (44) Nov 02, 2010
Simple caricature for a simple man.

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