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Kinder and Kiewiet: Sociotropic politics

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Kinder and Kiewiet. 1981. Sociotropic politics: The American case. British Journal of Political Science 11 (April): 129-161.

In Brief

  • Who/what are they challenging? Economic self-interest as determinant of political decisions.
  • Question: Does personal economic experiences or sociotropic information influence political decisions?

Does personal economic experiences or sociotropic information influence political decisions

Note: Kinder and Kiewiet are talking about information, NOT motivations. They aren't saying that sociotropic voting is inherently altruistic.

Three sets of hypotheses

H1 H2 H3
Hypotheses Sociotropic info is more influential than personal pocketbooks on political decisions in Congressional elections. Sociotropic info is more influential than personal pocketbooks on political decisions in Presidential elections. Sociotropic info is more influential than personal pocketbooks on political decisions in partisanship.
IV(s) Personal pocketbook; sociotropic info Personal pocketbook; sociotropic info Personal pocketbook; sociotropic info
DV Political decisions in Congressional elections Political decisions in Presidential elections Political decisions in degree of partisanship
Cases Elections in 1972, 1974, 1976 Elections in 1972 (between Republican incumbent Nixon and Democratic challenger McGovern) and 1976 (between: Republican incumbent Ford and Democratic challenger Carter) Changes in partisanship--same period.
Findings Sociotropic economic judgements predicted a large portion of variance in voting (personal pocketbook did not). Sociotropic economic judgements predicted a large portion of variance in voting (personal pocketbook had a small effect and differed between elections). Sociotropic economic judgements predicted a large portion of variance in voting (personal pocketbook did not).

Comments and Criticism

Were these good presidential elections to test because of Nixon? Ford also wasn't a "normal" incumbent.