Sample Reaction Paper

Note: This may be a bit short, but you get the idea - talk about common concepts, show that you understand and can ANALYZE the readings, offer critiques, and use specifics. Citations are also encouraged. Don't just recap the readings.


            The topics covered this week are interesting in that they have great implications for democratic theory.  Issue voting would indicate an attentive public, while retrospective voting could render campaign promises meaningless.  The enterprise of assessing the determinants of vote choice is an extremely complicated one that suffers from several common difficulties.

            The first is the availability of data.  Panel studies and surveys are expensive and time consuming, and therefore not consistently performed.  This hodge-podge of available data forces researchers to draw broad conclusions from data covering limited periods of time.  For example, Marcus and Converse used data from two elections.  The Kiinder and Abelson piece discussed by Asher found that candidate assessment fell along two separate dimensions – competence and integrity, yet the data was drawn during the Carter administration.  Carter may be a uniquely extreme example; an individual especially strong on integrity and weak on competence.  Similarly, CCMS drew conclusions about issue salience during a particularly non-contentious time period.  Many of these studies may be reporting substantially time-bound phenomena.

            Another difficulty arises from drawing conclusions based on particular cases.  For example, Carmines and Stimson use race as the primary example of an “easy issue” and Vietnam policy as an example of a “hard issue” (both derived from data on the 1972 presidential election).  Though these examples may very well prove consistent with the conclusions about types of issue voting (or rather, the one legitimate type), it may be that these results arise from the particular examples. 

            One particular observation is that the Fiorina conceptualization of retrospective voting seems plausible, yet I’m left wondering about the effect of past experience with a party in the distant past as compared with that of the recent past.  For example, if a voter came of age in a time of single party dominance, how would past experience with the other party be calculated?

            The transition of the voting literature from party ID driven to candidate centered is more intuitively satisfying, and may reflect a progression in understanding, due to the accumulation of scholarly work, as well as a temporal shift in voting behavior itself.  The Asher piece sums up the research in the field effectively, stating that “the ferment that currently exists in the study of voting behavior is an indication that this is a subfield in which important work remains to be done.”



Here you should put your weekly discussion question.