The Department of Government
The Department of Government
Ideology and Spatial Voting

Ideology and Spatial Voting in American Elections

After receiving his bachelor’s degree in government and mathematics from The University of Texas at Austin, Stephen Jessee earned a Ph.D. in political science from Stanford University and then returned to Austin, where he is now fills a crucial role in the department as a methodological expert specializing in American politics. Cambridge University Press published his first book in summer 2012.

Ideology and Spatial Voting in American Elections addresses two core issues related to the foundations of democratic governance: how the political views of Americans are structured and how citizens' voting decisions relate to their ideological proximity to the candidates in a given election. Focusing on testing the assumptions and implications of spatial voting, this book connects the theory with empirical analysis of voter preferences and behavior, showing that Americans cast their ballots largely in accordance with spatial voting theory. By carefully deriving the empirical implications of spatial voting theory and through the use of novel survey techniques and statistical methods, Stephen Jessee's research shows that voters possess meaningful ideologies that structure their policy beliefs, moderated by partisanship and differing levels of political information. Jessee finds that while voters with lower levels of political information are more influenced by partisanship, independents and better informed partisans are able to form reasonably accurate perceptions of candidates' ideologies. His findings should reaffirm citizens' faith in the broad functioning of democratic elections.

“In Ideology and Spatial Voting in American Elections, Professor Stephen Jessee develops an innovative approach to compare the ideologies of rank-and-file voters and presidential candidates, and proceeds to address several important questions, including: to what extent do rank-and-file voters display attitude constraint in their opinions across differing policy domains, and can their opinions across these different domains be represented by a position along a unidimensional ideological continuum? How does the distribution of citizens' ideological positions match up with the presidential candidates' ideological positions? How do citizens' ideological positions and their partisanship influence their vote choices, and does the answer to this question depend on the citizen's level of political information? Professor Jessee presents provocative and nonobvious answers to these questions that greatly enhance our understanding of public opinion, political behavior, and mass-elite policy linkages.” - James Adams, University of California, Davis

Ideology and Spatial Voting in American Elections advances two provocative claims. The first is that the policy preferences of ordinary citizens are structured ideologically; the second, that most voters rely on ideological predispositions to guide their electoral choices. Employing a combination of rigorous formal modeling, sophisticated statistical methods, and taut prose, Jessee makes a compelling case for these propositions. What makes this volume especially appealing is that it deftly incorporates insights from the spatial modeling and political behavior fields to build a theory of voter decision making that surpasses prior efforts in both areas. This book will quickly become a 'must cite' for scholars working in the fields of spatial theory, political behavior, public opinion, campaigns and elections, and citizen competence.” - Paul Goren, University of Minnesota

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