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Hetherington: The effect of political trust on the presidential vote, 1968-96

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I even say who wrote them. If you have more recent summaries to add to this collection, send them my way I guess. Sorry for the ads; they cover the costs of keeping this online.

Hetherington. 1999. The effect of political trust on the presidential vote, 1968-96. APSR 93:311-26.

Hypothesis

Declining political trust (see Fig 1) has not affected turnout, but it has affected vote choice. When there are two parties running (viable) candidates for president, distrustful voters turn to challengers (not incumbents); when there are three candidates, distrustful voters turn to third parties.

Theory

Trust in government can serve as a heuristic (info shortcut). With candidates frequently running anti-Washington campaigns, and the media constantly pointing out government waste, distrust turns into a convenient heursitic; as a result, presidential voting represents a clear tendency among the distrustful to "turn the rascals out."

Data

Using NES data from 1968-1996, the author shows that distrust predicts individual-level voting against the incumbent (in two-party races) and against the major parties (when there is a strong third-party candidate). If trust had remained at 1964 levels, incumbents would have fared slightly better (Table 5), though probably not enough to have won reelection if they lost.

Problems

Research on similar subjects

Tags

Hetherington, Marc (author)Political ScienceAmerican PoliticsVotingTrustDecision Making

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