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Title:A normal vote approach to the nationalization of the American electorate: Presidential elections, 1828-1984
Author(s):Dalager, Jon Karl
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Nardulli, Peter F.
Department / Program:History, United States
Political Science, General
Discipline:History, United States
Political Science, General
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree:Ph.D.
Genre:Dissertation
Subject(s):History, United States
Political Science, General
Abstract:V. O. Key and E. E. Schattschneider saw a significant change in the U.S. electorate's voting behavior in the first half of the twentieth century. They both contended that the sectional nature of electoral politics was deteriorating, leading to the "nationalization" of the electorate. A number of other researchers have since examined whether the electorate has indeed been nationalized, but the methods, data, and findings vary considerably. In this examination of nationalization, I adopt Converse's concept of the normal vote--a division of voting behavior into a long-term and short-term components. I also examine an extensive data set consisting of presidential election results from 1828 to 1984. A macro-level, longitudinal analysis of electoral behavior, and the estimate of the normal vote, requires a significant series of data.
The concept of a nationalized electorate is reviewed and two structural aspects are identified. A nationalized electorate may be explained by the national homogeneity theory, where all voters across the nation are becoming increasingly similar, or by the sectional heterogeneity theory, which postulates that the geographic sections are simply becoming more diverse, creating a sectional electorate similar in its behavior to the rest of the nation.
The analysis of the long-term dimension of electoral behavior reveals that there is a slight trend toward nationalization since the 1930s, but that the behavior at the sectional and regional levels of aggregation varies considerably. Some geographical areas display rapid convergence with the national pattern, but others show divergence over the past several decades. Rather than behaving more like the rest of the nation, they are displaying greater independence and distinctiveness. The short-term dimension of electoral behavior is more difficult to interpret as voters present a variety of responses to election-specific influences. Although voters in some sections and regions exhibit uniform responses, there is no clear pattern that allows a finding of nationalization along this dimension.
By changing the level of analysis to examine findings at several different levels of aggregation, it becomes clear that the level of aggregation is an important factor that may have affected the results of previous studies. A multi-level analysis, as performed here, provides the proper perspective for longitudinal electoral research.
Issue Date:1995
Type:Text
Language:English
URI:http://hdl.handle.net/2142/23666
Rights Information:Copyright 1995 Dalager, Jon Karl
Date Available in IDEALS:2011-05-07
Identifier in Online Catalog:AAI9543563
OCLC Identifier:(UMI)AAI9543563


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