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Attitudes toward Presidential Candidates and Political Parties: Initial Optimism, Inertial First Impressions, and a Focus on Flaws

Allyson L. Holbrook, Jon A. Krosnick, Penny S. Visser, Wendi L. Gardner and John T. Cacioppo
American Journal of Political Science
Vol. 45, No. 4 (Oct., 2001), pp. 930-950
DOI: 10.2307/2669333
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2669333
Page Count: 21
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Attitudes toward Presidential Candidates and Political Parties: Initial Optimism, Inertial First Impressions, and a Focus on Flaws
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Abstract

Most models of how citizens combine information about political candidates into attitudes toward them presume that symmetric linear additive processes are at work. We propose a model (called the ANM) in which the impact of favorable and unfavorable beliefs on attitudes is asymmetric and nonlinear. Cross-sectional national survey data (from 1972 to 1996) show that this model describes attitudes toward presidential candidates and political parties better than a symmetric linear model (SLM) among respondents high and low in political involvement. Longitudinal survey data (collected between 1980 and 1996) show that attitudes are derived from favorable and unfavorable beliefs in ways consistent with the ANM. And the ANM revealed that voter turnout is enhanced by a stronger preference for a citizen's preferred candidate if at least one candidate is disliked, whereas the SLM failed to detect this effect. These findings have important implications for understanding the impact of election campaigns on citizens' preferences and actions and for understanding the ingredients of vote choices.

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