Date of Award
Bachelor of Science (BS)
College of Humanities and Fine Arts
Studies on voting behavior have implications for academia and for real world applications. One of the main topics covered in studies of voting behavior is the use of heuristics to make voting decisions. A heuristic is a mental shortcut used to make a decision, and often times does not account for any careful consideration. According to the literature, an individual's party identification is the most commonly used heuristic in voting behavior. A voter will align with a political party based on preferences in policy (or perceived preferences) and vote for any candidate who bears the party's designation. There is also a growing field of literature on another heuristic in voting behavior, that of candidate appearance. By examining the physical appearance of a candidate a voter will make judgments based on specific cues, and decide whether or not to vote for a candidate. This study attempts to establish a link between the two heuristics; can candidate appearance active the party identification heuristic in voters? To study this, a candidate was created that had no clear partisan alignment, but was given partisan appearance cues through the manipulation of his tie color. Respondents were asked to evaluate the candidate based on his image and a brief biography and were asked if they would vote for the candidate in the election. Upon examining the results only two variables were significant in predicting vote choice. The respondent's knowledge score was negatively associated with voting for the candidate, as knowledge score increased the likelihood of a vote decreased holding all other variables constant. Tie color was statistically significant for the respondents in the Independent political party group of respondents, as they were more likely to vote for the candidate for the green tie if they were an Independent. This study establishes some precedent for links between the two heuristics and paves a pathway to further studies based on other experimental manipulations to convey partisanship in appearance.
Reilly, Brandon D., "The Ties That Bind: Candidate Appearance and Party Heuristics" (2014). Honors Theses. 22.