We theorize that campaign intensity alters the criteria individuals use when evaluating candidates. We define campaign intensity as the culmination of the interplay among the candidates, news media, and the perceived closeness of the race. As the intensity increases, we expect people to adjust their decision-making critea. Examining the impact of intensity in 97 Senate races between 1988 and 1992, we find that intense campaigns encourage individuals to rely more heavily on both sophisticated criteria and simple decision rules when forming impressions of candidates. As campaigns become more hard-fought, people are more likely to consider policy and ideology as well as partisanship and retrospective evaluations of the president and the economy. While the campaign setting clearly affects citizens' decision-making processes, different types of people react differently to the intensity of the campaign. As races become more competitive, novices begin to rely more heavily on issues, sociotropic assessments, party identification, and presidential approval, whereas political experts are less affected by changes in the campaign environment.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science