Same Old, Same Old?

 Posted by  Larry Bartels

One of the things to watch when the election returns (finally!) come in tomorrow night is how the voting behavior of specific states and demographic groups differs from what it has been in recent elections.  In a 1992 book chapter on "The Impact of Electioneering in the United States," I used a scatterplot of state presidential votes from 1984 and 1988 to underline the importance of enduring partisan loyalties in voting behavior.  In a 1998 piece in Electoral Studies  I showed that the stability of voting patterns from one election to the next has been greater since the 1980s than in the previous several decades.

 A recent post by Andrew Gelman shows the corresponding scatterplot for 2000-2004, which shows very modest deviations despite the intervening 2000 election controvery, massive redistributive tax cuts, 9/11 terrorist attacks, and war in Iraq.  Gelman also compares Obama's standing in recent state polls with Kerry's performance in 2004.  Not surprisingly, there is a considerable upward shift, but also a good deal more scatter.  How much of that is due to noise in the polls, and how much to shifts in the underlying partisan landscape?  The answer to that question may provide an early clue to whether 2008 will mark a significant departure from the evenly balanced, highly polarized electoral status quo of the past 20 years.

About this site

The mission of Princeton’s Center for the Study of Democratic Politics at the Woodrow Wilson School is to promote empirical research on democratic processes and institutions.  That broad mandate has attracted a diverse collection of faculty, students, and visitors pursuing a wide variety of research topics. However, the American electoral process has been a recurrent focus of interest for many of the scholars associated with CSDP and a frequent topic of conferences, colloquia, and other events sponsored by the Center.  As the 2008 campaign unfolds, we thought it might be helpful and fun to collect the election-related research, analyses, and offbeat insights of our extended scholarly community, both for our own edification and as a resource for others interested in how political scientists are thinking about the election.  We welcome contributions, comments, and suggestions. For more about the people and activities of CSDP, please visit our website, To post a comment, click the "speech bubble."

  — Larry M. Bartels, Director

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