lect18 - N.B Final Exam Ackerman Grand Ballroom 12/10 3:00...

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1 N.B. Final Exam: Ackerman Grand Ballroom 12/10 3:00 UCLA Department of Political Science Fall 2007 PS 40 Introduction to American Politics Prof. Thomas Schwartz HUNK 18 How to Predict and Explain Presidential Elections Much of today’s discussion applies to elections of all sorts, but we shall focus on presidential elections. The idea of prediction and explanation are intimately related. A good explanation is a retrospective prediction; a good prediction is a prospective explanation. It is hard to predict something without understanding the process driving it—the very thing we expect of a good explanation. We will consider four models that predict the outcomes of presidential elections. A model is a simplification of reality, or of the processes, mechanisms, and motivations underlying reality. It is an hypothesis that often oversimplifies things in order to get at the heart of how something works. 1. Personal Characteristics of the Candidates . Ideally one could look at the personal characteristics of candidates to predict electoral advantages. No one has really been able to do this particularly well. Still it is important. At an impressionistic level it is obvious that voters who are not especially tied to a party look for an effective leader and problem solver, and for that they seek charisma and a record of success. It is not surprising that the modal prior job of our presidents has been governor —in a way the most similar job. Not counting vice presidents who succeeded on the death or resignation of a president, other presidents have mostly been generals and (in the early days) cabinet
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2 officers. Only four lacked executive experience, and two of them--Lincoln and Kennedy- -were famously charismatic. 2. Party-Relative Advantages . Different parties enjoy different groups’ support and “own” different issues. Because voters use candidates’ party labels as informational cues about what to expect from them while in office, one can use the electorate’s party composition as a way of predicting election outcomes. 3. Economy (retrospective voting) 4. Ideology (one-dimensional or median-voter model) We skip #1 and go straight to model #2. 2. Party Traditional group assets support the following advice: Democrats : Win big among labor unions and Catholics. Try not to lose too badly in the South. Republicans : Win big among white Southerners and in the West. Try to split Catholic and union vote. In general, parties must retain the groups they traditionally “own” and try to make inroads into the other party’s supporters. Warning: Simple categories are too simple, and they change over time. Once virtually 100 percent Republican, blacks are now overwhelmingly Democratic. Among Latinos, Puerto Ricans tend to vote Democrat while Cubans consistently vote Republican. Among East Asians (the current liberal neologism “Asian” for people of the Mongoloid race evinces ignorance of geography), the Chinese were traditionally more Republican, the Japanese more Democratic.
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3 The issue assets reviewed earlier are these: --
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