Po­lit­i­cal Stereo­typ­ing

The Covington News - - OPINION - JACKIE GIN­GRICH CUSH­MAN COLUM­NIST To find out more about Jackie Gin­grich Cush­man, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators Syn­di­cate writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit www. cre­ators.com.

While we might like to think that vot­ers re­search the is­sues, re­view the can­di­dates, and then vote for the can­di­date that best re­flects their views, the re­al­ity, based on po­lit­i­cal sci­ence re­search, is much dif­fer­ent. Ac­cord­ing to Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity Pro­fes­sor Danny Hayes’ re­search pa­per “When Gen­der and Party Col­lide: Stereo­typ­ing in Can­di­date Trait At­tri­bu­tion,” “stereo­types are rel­e­vant in pol­i­tics be­cause cit­i­zens are will­ing to de­vote only limited time to think­ing about po­lit­i­cal mat­ters. As a re­sult, po­lit­i­cal judg­ments — whether about is­sues, events or can­di­dates — are of­ten the re­sult of a few salient cues. Stereo­typ­ing is the as­sign­ment of ‘iden­ti­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics to any per­son in a group re­gard­less of the ac­tual vari­a­tion among mem­bers of that group.’”

Yes, while vot­ers don’t want to be stereo­typed and fight against stereo­types, they stereo­type can­di­dates.

The good news is that Hayes found that “vot­ers are likely to use party stereo­types in mak­ing in­fer­ences about can­di­date traits, but that gen­der stereo­types are not as in­flu­en­tial.”

The bad news is party stereo­types are in­flu­en­tial, re­gard­less of whether or not they are in fact ac­cu­rate.

This might lead you to won­der, as did I, what the stan­dard Repub­li­can and Demo­cratic Party stereo­types are? This base­line voter stereo­typ­ing was dis­cussed in “Can­di­date Qual­i­ties through a Par­ti­san Lens: A The­ory of Trait Own­er­ship,” by Hayes and pub­lished in the “Amer­i­can Jour­nal of Po­lit­i­cal Sci­ence.”

“Repub­li­cans tend to be re­garded as more adept at han­dling mat­ters of de­fense, taxes and so­cial is­sues (such as so-called fam­ily val­ues). Democrats, mean­while, own the is­sues of so­cial wel­fare and so­cial group re­la­tions.”

While th­ese might be the stereo­types, there are Repub­li­can can­di­dates who work at reach­ing out to the el­derly and the work­ing class and Democrats who fo­cus on lead­er­ship and na­tional se­cu­rity.

What do th­ese stereo­types mean in to­day’s en­vi­ron­ment?

Based on a Gallup Poll re­leased last week, dis­sat­is­fac­tion with gov­ern­ment (18 per­cent) was the great­est con­cern fac­ing this coun­try, (1,032 adults, aged 18 and older, 95 per­cent con­fi­dence level, plus or mi­nus 4 per­cent). This was closely fol­lowed by immigration (15 per­cent), econ­omy in gen­eral (14 per­cent) and un­em­ploy­ment (12 per­cent).

Maybe it’s more that just dis­sat­is­fac­tion with gov­ern­ment. Ras­mussen Re­ports re­leased sur­vey re­sults last week that echoed this theme, find­ing that “60 per­cent of Amer­i­can Adults be­lieve the fed­eral gov­ern­ment plays too big a role in the lives of av­er­age Amer­i­cans. Only 8 per­cent think the feds play too small a role, while 22 per­cent think the level of gov­ern­ment in­volve­ment is about right.” (1,000 Adults, 95 per­cent level of con­fi­dence, plus or mi­nus 3 per­cent).

In­ter­est­ingly enough, while Repub­li­cans might paint Democrats as the party of big gov­ern­ment, and there­fore Repub­li­cans should have an edge, since the Democrats own the is­sue of so­cial wel­fare, they could lever­age this is­sue to cast them­selves as pro-so­cial groups, anti-gov­ern­ment.

Core is­sues — is­sues that nor­mally have a large gap between the Demo­cratic and Repub­li­can po­si­tions, are fall­ing in con­cern. One of the key Demo­cratic wedges, the gap between the rich and poor is at a lowly 3 per­cent while the Fed­eral bud­get debt/deficit, a key Repub­li­can is­sue, has also fallen to 3 per­cent, ac­cord­ing to Gallup.

The is­sues that for so long cre­ated clear com­par­isons between the par­ties are not as im­por­tant — so the par­ties must re­think their strate­gies in ap­proach­ing the vot­ers.

Hayes found that while vot­ers stereo­type, the can­di­dates that talked about is­sues the other party nor­mally dom­i­nates in­flu­enced “the per­sonal char­ac­ter­is­tics vot­ers at­tribute to them.” This is rem­i­nis­cent of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s com­pas­sion­ate con­ser­vatism.

Ac­cord­ing to Hayes, “a politi­cian who ap­pears to care about the wel­fare of the needy cul­ti­vates for him­self an im­age of be­ing com­pas­sion­ate and em­pa­thetic.”

Along those lines, “a Demo­crat who es­tab­lishes him­self as an un­usu­ally strong leader or a Repub­li­can who comes across as es­pe­cially em­pa­thetic — might win over vot­ers look­ing for in­for­ma­tion to dis­tin­guish between the two can­di­dates. Like­wise, a can­di­date who falls short of th­ese party-based ex­pec­ta­tions — a Repub­li­can who shows lit­tle lead­er­ship abil­ity or a Demo­crat who seems cold-hearted -- may lose stand­ing in the eyes of vot­ers who ex­pected more.”

So the take away for can­di­dates is to, rather than sim­ply rally their bases, keep their base but run as if they were a can­di­date from the op­po­site party, thereby bridg­ing the dif­fer­ence between the two par­ties.

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