Koç University, College of Social Sciences and Humanities Seminar Series presents:
Deniz Selman, Assistant Professor (Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania)
Boğaziçi University, Department of Economics
Title: “Political Knowledge and Voting Behavior”
Abstract: Political knowledge is an important factor in understanding voting behavior, particularly when voters’ policy positions conflict with those of their favored candidate. In this paper, we use the National Annenberg Election Survey (NAES) for the 2004 U.S. election to directly estimate voters’ ideological positions, candidates’ ideological positions, and voters’ knowledge of candidates’ ideological positions. We then analyze the relationship between these estimates and the individual’s vote in the 2004 presidential election. The NAES asks voters for their own stances and for the candidates’ stances on specific policy issues. Because candidates’ stances on these policies are known, the data allow us to (1) estimate voters’ knowledge levels using item response theory, and (2) simultaneously estimate the positions of voters and candidates on the same spectrum. Typically, in the empirical literature, individuals’ ideological positions are taken from self-reported placement on an ideological spectrum. Here, we use Poole and Rosenthal’s (1985, 2000) spatial model to estimate ideological positions, treating individuals’ opinions as Poole and Rosenthal treat roll-call data for legislators. This method recovers the underlying ideological space while avoiding the perception issues associated with self-placement. Assuming that voters prefer to vote for the candidate whose ideological position is closer to their own, we find that more knowledgeable individuals are far less likely to vote for the candidate farther from them. Moreover, significantly more voters vote “mistakenly” for Bush than for Kerry. Though a majority of voters have ideological positions closer to Kerry, Bush receives more votes due to this pattern of mistakes.