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The Structure of Presidential Elections and the Process of Realignment, 1944 to 1980

George Rabinowitz, Paul-Henri Gurian and Stuart Elaine Macdonald
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 28, No. 4 (Nov., 1984), pp. 611-635
DOI: 10.2307/2110990
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2110990
Page Count: 25
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The Structure of Presidential Elections and the Process of Realignment, 1944 to 1980
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Abstract

This paper examines the structure underlying U.S. presidential elections from 1944 to 1980. The authors argue that structure is essential if elections are to play the representational and accountability roles assigned to them in democratic theory. From the individual-level spatial model an aggregate voting model is developed that uses the fifty states as analytic units. The analysis shows that party and ideology provide considerable structure to presidential elections. The authors' results suggest that despite the importance of short-term forces in determining electoral outcomes, modern presidential elections are set in a meaningful structural context. Over the time period a clear movement occurs from party to ideology as the primary structuring agent, a change suggestive of a potential realignment in American politics. The authors examine the process of realignment and find evidence of a modest secular realignment.

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