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Voting for president: nothing personal.

Voting for President: Nothing personal

Political primary season is in full swing, and the candidate who wants to get an edge by polishing his image as a caring, warm, down-home kind of guy might heed the findings of voter surveys conducted prior to the last two presidential elections. In both 1980 and 1984, says political scientist Warren E. Miller of Arizona State University in Tempe, voter impressions of Ronald Reagan's personal attributes, such as integrity and compassion, contributed insignificantly to his eventual margin of victory in the general election.

In 1980, the biggest boost to Reagan's electoral success came from widespread dissatisfaction with the economy and living conditions in general, as well as a growth in support for more conservative political programs. In 1984, feelings that the political status quo should be maintained contributed the most to Reagan's victory, although much of the support for a move toward conservatism had eroded.

A reassuring, telegenic personality appears to be less important in affecting the outcome of an election than is often assumed, noted Miller at a National Research Council press seminar in Washington, D.C., last week.

"Party preference remains the most important single factor in determining how we vote," he says. Nearly 90 percent of the electorate is predisposed to favor either Democrats or Republicans. About 60 percent of the voters have consistent ideological preferences along liberal or conservative lines.

His conclusions are based on the analysis of intensive interviews conducted with a representative national sample of approximately 2,000 voters in 1980 and 1984.
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Title Annotation:research on why people vote for a candidate
Publication:Science News
Date:Mar 19, 1988
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