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19-07-2018 | Original Paper | Issue 4/2019

Political Behavior 4/2019

Roadmaps to Representation: An Experimental Study of How Voter Education Tools Affect Citizen Decision Making

Journal:
Political Behavior > Issue 4/2019
Authors:
Cheryl Boudreau, Christopher S. Elmendorf, Scott A. MacKenzie
Important notes

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (https://​doi.​org/​10.​1007/​s11109-018-9480-6) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Data and replication files are available on Dataverse (https://​doi.​org/​10.​7910/​DVN/​U6YTI5).

Abstract

Efforts to educate citizens about the candidates and issues at stake in elections are widespread. These include distributing voter guides describing candidates’ policy views and interactive tools conveying similar information. Do these voter education tools help voters identify candidates who share their policy views? We address this question by conducting survey experiments that randomly assign a nonpartisan voter guide, political party endorsements, a spatial map showing voters their own and the candidates’ ideological positions, or both a spatial map and party endorsements. We find that each type of information strengthens the relationship between voters’ policy views and those of the candidates they choose. These effects are largest for uninformed voters. When spatial maps and party endorsements send conflicting signals, many voters choose candidates with more similar policy views, against their party’s recommendation. These results contribute to debates about citizen competence and demonstrate the efficacy of practical efforts to inform electorates.

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