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Key: The responsible electorate

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 say who wrote them.

Key. 1966. The responsible electorate.

In Brief

Key's book was the original attack on The American Voter, in which he famously asserted, "The perverse and unorthodox argument of this little book is that voters are not fools." Key argues against the implications of Campbell et al.'s book, and Converse's later addition, about the ignorance and unreliability of American (swing) voters. If we believe that voters are fools, then the politicians will treat them accordingly. Thus, this belief is not only untrue but dangerous.

Main Point

The Switchers (swing voters) appear to be changing their minds based on real political preferences; "voters are not fools." They change their minds in ways that are consistent with their preferences.

Standpatters are voters that vote for a candidate of the same party for 2 elections. Switchers change their vote from one party to another. New Voters are those that either were unable to vote because of age or are just now voting. This category also includes "in and out" voters.

Elections suggest, erroneously, a small number of Switchers. This number actually reaches into the millions. The direction of Switchers rotates. When F.D.R. was popular the Republican Party was reduced to its core. Thus, during 1940s we see an influx to the Republican Party. This trend reverses after Eisenhower.

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Key, V. O. (author)American PoliticsVotingPartisanship

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