Yes we can! Valence politics and electoral choice in America, 2008

Harold D. Clarke, Allan Kornberg, Thomas J. Scotto, Jason Reifler, David Sanders, Marianne C. Stewart, Paul Whiteley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


The claim that the 2008 presidential election was a transformative one is fast becoming part of the conventional wisdom of American politics. Despite the election's undoubted significance, this paper argues that factors affecting voting decisions were strikingly similar to those operating in many previous presidential elections. Using data from the CCAP six-wave national election survey, we demonstrate that a valence politics model provides a powerful, parsimonious explanation of the ballot decisions Americans made in 2008. As is typical in presidential elections, candidate images had major effects on electoral choice. Controlling for several other relevant factors, racial attitudes were strongly associated with how voters reacted to the candidates. Other models of electoral choice, such as a Downsian issue-proximity model, are also relevant, but their explanatory power is considerably less than that provided by the valence politics model.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)450-461
Number of pages12
JournalElectoral Studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • voting behavior
  • electoral system
  • partisan change


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