Why do most winning candidates adhere to partisan orthodox positions? While some prior work has examined how issue positions signal candidate ideology, this paper instead focuses on how candidate issue positions affect evaluations of valence. In light of important inferential limitations in using the correlation between observed candidate positions and electoral performance to assess voter responses, we present a large-scale candidate vignette experiment that reveals issue positions affect perceptions of non-ideological characteristics. Candidates with only one of three positions that stray from the “typical” position for their party – being too extreme, bipartisan, or ideologically unusual – are perceived as less effective legislators. This suggests party-consistency may be reinforced by the electorate through changes in perceived valence, and that the observed correlation between candidate performance and issue positions might arise for reasons apart from ideology.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Political Science and International Relations