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Early Presidential Primaries, Viability, and Vote Switching in 2008
Unformatted Document Text:  demonstrates that expectations about candidate viability reflect awareness of actual election results that, objectively, defined the candidates’ electoral prospects. Voters casting votes in late-voting states thus appear to have updated their perceptions of candidate viability in response outcomes in earlier states. In this case, they continued updating expectations after events in their own state. How then, might the dynamics of expectations about viability affect changes in voter support for candidates? Washington state is rather unique in that it held both caucuses (on February 9th) and a presidential primary election (on February 19th) in 2008. Our questions about candidate preference were in the field around the time of the caucus, and prior to the primary. Expectations about candidate viability and vote intentions in February were thus measured in ‘real world’ setting that captures the effects of campaign events in a sequential nomination process as they were unfolding. Table 3 about here Table 3 reports estimates of the propensity to switch support to Obama between October 2007 and February 2008. The models are similar to those reported in Table 2, with the important difference that expectations about viability (which are modeled in Table 2) are now included as an independent variable predicting switching support. The major substantive relationship here is not surprising: people who came to see Obama in more favorable terms (measured as change in feeling thermometer ratings from October to February) were significantly more likely to switch to supporting Obama in February. This is consistent with the underlying logic of momentum described by Bartels (1988). As information about Obama became more widely disseminated, more people were able to rate Obama. This reduction in uncertainty corresponded with a gain in positive affect 13

Authors: Barreto, Matt., Collingwood, Loren. and Donovan, Todd.
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demonstrates that expectations about candidate viability reflect awareness of actual
election results that, objectively, defined the candidates’ electoral prospects. Voters
casting votes in late-voting states thus appear to have updated their perceptions of
candidate viability in response outcomes in earlier states. In this case, they continued
updating expectations after events in their own state.
How then, might the dynamics of expectations about viability affect changes in
voter support for candidates? Washington state is rather unique in that it held both
caucuses (on February 9th) and a presidential primary election (on February 19th) in
2008. Our questions about candidate preference were in the field around the time of the
caucus, and prior to the primary. Expectations about candidate viability and vote
intentions in February were thus measured in ‘real world’ setting that captures the effects
of campaign events in a sequential nomination process as they were unfolding.
Table 3 about here
Table 3 reports estimates of the propensity to switch support to Obama between
October 2007 and February 2008. The models are similar to those reported in Table 2,
with the important difference that expectations about viability (which are modeled in
Table 2) are now included as an independent variable predicting switching support. The
major substantive relationship here is not surprising: people who came to see Obama in
more favorable terms (measured as change in feeling thermometer ratings from October
to February) were significantly more likely to switch to supporting Obama in February.
This is consistent with the underlying logic of momentum described by Bartels (1988).
As information about Obama became more widely disseminated, more people were able
to rate Obama. This reduction in uncertainty corresponded with a gain in positive affect
13


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