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Social science research colloquium next week

September 17, 2013

Event Details

December 31, 1969

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Dr. Carl Klarner, ISU Department of Political Science, will present his work "Driven to Distraction: State and National Forces in State Legislative Elections." The presentation will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 24, in Holmstedt Hall, Room 223, from 3:30-5 p.m. The event is open to the ISU community and all are encouraged to attend.

This presentation examines the possibility that state government is not held accountable to the public by elections because voters are "distracted" by federal races and issues. Estimates of Democratic vote share for president, governor, U.S. Senate and U.S. House at the state legislative district level were computed for 1968 to 2010 for all 50 states, utilizing county data. Large coattail effects on state legislative elections were found, but in contrast to past work, there was no evidence of withdrawn presidential coattails in midterm elections. Coattails for an office were also much greater when the office was "at the top of the ticket," and were further augmented by the straight ticket option. A corollary to this finding is that gubernatorial coattails are diminished when more federal offices are up, implying that voters are "distracted" from state issues by federal elections. Additional support was found for the "distraction hypothesis": state factors-specifically the condition of a state's economy, the state midterm penalty, and whether a state's budget was late-were found to have much more of an impact on electoral fortunes in the state legislature when fewer federal elections were on the ballot. These findings imply that devolving power to the states does not bring citizens "closer to government" but instead diminishes democratic accountability.

For more information contact Dr. Carl Klarner,







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