Political choices in hard times: voting in the 2010 U.S. house elections

Harold D. Clarke, Allan Kornberg, Thomas J. Scotto, Marianne C. Stewart

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


This paper assesses the explanatory power of rival models of voting behavior in the 2010 elections for the U.S. House of Representatives. Multivariate analyses of data gathered in a 2008-10 national panel survey indicate that a combination of national-level valence and positional issues had strong effects on the choices voters made. Campaigning in 2008 during the biggest financial crisis since the Great Depression, Barack Obama had boldly reiterated the mantra "Change You Can Believe In" to propel his successful race for the presidency. There were serious political consequences when the expectations he raised went unfulfilled. High unemployment and anaemic growth continued to beset the economy in 2010, and the President's landmark health-care legislation and policy proposals in areas such as climate change and immigration were debated in a context of widespread disappointment with his performance. This context enhanced voters' susceptibility to Republican claims that the President's policies initiatives were ill-advised. The result was a politically toxic mix of valence and positional issues which corroded Obama's image and worked strongly against Democratic candidates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)139-165
Number of pages27
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 30 Mar 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • voting
  • cogressional elections
  • political change

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