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Three voter heuristics

 

DisciplinesPolitics > Articles on politics > Three voter heuristics

Affect | Ideology | Attribution of responsibility | See also

 

How do people decide how to vote, particularly given that they typically have very little knowledge of the real issues? Paul Sniderman et al identified three heuristics: affect, ideology and attributions of responsibility.

Affect

People like or dislike what politicians say or do. If I like a politician then I will probably vote for them over one I do not like.

General likeability is thus an important mask for politicians to sustain. This is easier, of course, if it is genuine. If the mask slips then voters will quickly flip into dislike.

We also like people who our friends and family like. Politicians can thus win over significant groups, particularly if they can influence key individuals which others look to for approval and opintion leadership.

Ideology

People tend to subscribe to entire ideologies as a single unit. Thus individuals will vote to the political left or right not so much because they believe in current policies but because they see themselves as being followers of the overall ideological approach (and opposed to other ideologies).

Attribution of responsibility

This is also known as the 'desert heuristic' and indicates how blame is attributed in the case of policy failure in some form. In particular at one end of the spectrum the 'system' is blamed for failures, whilst at the other end individuals are blamed.

See also

 

Sniderman, P.M., Hagen, M.G, Tetlock, P.E. and Brady, H.E. (1986). Reasoning Chains: Causal Models of Policy Reasoning in Mass Publics. Stanford Typescript.

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