Marco Steenbergen, Milton Lodge, Shawn Brau
American Political Science Review 89(2)
Publication year: 1995

We find strong support for an on-line model of the candidate evaluation process that in contrast to memory-based models shows that citizens are responsive to campaign information, adjusting their overall evaluation of the candidates in response to their immediate assessment of campaign messages and events. Over time people forget most of the campaign information they are exposed to but are nonetheless able to later recollect their summary affective evaluation of candidates which they then use to inform their preferences and vote choice. These findings have substantive, methodological, and normative implications for the study of electoral behavior. Substantively, we show how campaign information affects voting behavior. Methodologically, we demonstrate the need to measure directly what campaign information people actually attend to over the course of a campaign and show that after controling for the individual’s on-line assessment of campaign messages, National Election Study-type recall measures prove to be spurious as explanatory variables. Finally, we draw normative implications for democratic theory of on-line processing, concluding that citizens appear to be far more responsive to campaign messages than conventional recall models suggest.

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