The effect of polling data on independent voting behavior
Witsman, Katherine A.
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Although the American political system is often thought of as comprised of two parties, there are in fact often elections in which three or more parties are competing at the national level. In a national election with a Democratic, Republican and Independent candidate, voting often may be no longer about a preferred candidate or party, but instead about strategy. Perhaps one of the most important sources for strategic decision making in these elections is polling data. Given that polling data play a particular role in these elections, this research was conducted to examine just what role polling data play on Independent voting behavior in a three-party election. In this study, a preferred candidate was assigned and hypothetical polls with varied percentage points were used in an experimental design to determine how poll percentages affect the likelihood of voting for the preferred Independent candidate. To understand the decision making process, variations on the polling scenarios were utilized to examine the influence of the overall poll numbers, leading party, the percentage trend over time, as well as other demographic and cognitive items. The results suggested a significant relationship between the percentages for Independent candidates reported in polls and the likelihood of voting for him/her, regardless of gender, ethnicity, which major party candidate is leading in the polls and recent trends in the polling percentage of the candidate. While other relationships were found in the data to predict specific voting patterns, such as degree of partisanship affecting the likelihood of voting for an Independent candidate in any polling scenario, none significantly influenced the trend found as a result of the different percentage variations. The study demonstrated that, regardless of these variables, as poll numbers go up for the preferred Independent candidate, the likelihood of voters willing to vote for the candidate will also increase, confirming the hypothesis that polling data influence Independent voting behavior
Thesis (Ph.D.)-- Wichita State University, Fairmount College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Dept. of Psychology
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