Follow the Leader?: How Voters Respond To Politicians' Policies And Performance

Paperback | October 15, 2012

byGabriel S. Lenz

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In a democracy, we generally assume that voters know the policies they prefer and elect like-minded officials who are responsible for carrying them out. We also assume that voters consider candidates' competence, honesty, and other performance-related traits. But does this actually happen? Do voters consider candidates’ policy positions when deciding for whom to vote? And how do politicians’ performances in office factor into the voting decision?
 
In Follow the Leader?, Gabriel S. Lenz sheds light on these central questions of democratic thought. Lenz looks at citizens’ views of candidates both before and after periods of political upheaval, including campaigns, wars, natural disasters, and episodes of economic boom and bust. Noting important shifts in voters’ knowledge and preferences as a result of these events, he finds that, while citizens do assess politicians based on their performance, their policy positions actually matter much less. Even when a policy issue becomes highly prominent, voters rarely shift their votes to the politician whose position best agrees with their own. In fact, Lenz shows, the reverse often takes place: citizens first pick a politician and then adopt that politician’s policy views. In other words, they follow the leader.
 
Based on data drawn from multiple countries, Follow the Leader? is the most definitive treatment to date of when and why policy and performance matter at the voting booth, and it will break new ground in the debates about democracy.

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In a democracy, we generally assume that voters know the policies they prefer and elect like-minded officials who are responsible for carrying them out. We also assume that voters consider candidates' competence, honesty, and other performance-related traits. But does this actually happen? Do voters consider candidates’ policy position...

Gabriel S. Lenz is assistant professor in the Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:344 pages, 9 × 6 × 0.9 inPublished:October 15, 2012Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0226472140

ISBN - 13:9780226472140

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Extra Content

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments

Chapter 1. Rum Punch or Issue Voting?
Chapter 2. Rewarding Performance? Priming the Economy
Chapter 3. Rewarding Policy Advantages? Priming Policy
Chapter 4. Changing Views, Changing Votes? Performance versus Policy
Chapter 5. Learning Positions, Changing Votes?
Chapter 6. Avoiding Political Meltdowns: Chernobyl
Chapter 7. Fending off Swamp Rabbits: Defense and Carter
Chapter 8. Following, Not Leading
Chapter 9. Conclusion

Appendix
Notes
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“This is a significant advance in our study of public opinion and voting behavior, offering an important corrective to a number of previous studies and giving us a powerful tool for understanding just how voters reach decisions. Lenz’s book is a valuable and important contribution to the literatures on public opinion, campaigns, voter competency, and democratic theory.”