1st Edition

Candidate Character Traits in Presidential Elections

ISBN 9781138286177
Published November 16, 2016 by Routledge
220 Pages

USD $44.95

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Book Description

Voter perceptions of the personal traits of presidential candidates are widely regarded to be important influences on the vote. Media pundits frequently explain the outcome of presidential elections in terms of the personal appeal of the candidates. Despite the emphasis on presidential character traits in the media, the scholarly investigation in this area is limited.

In this book, David Holian and Charles Prysby set out to examine the effect that trait perceptions have on the vote, how these perceptions are shaped by other attitudes and evaluations, and what types of voters are most likely to cast a ballot on the basis of the character traits of the presidential candidates. Using the American National Election Studies (ANES) surveys, the authors find that traits do have a very substantial effect on the vote, that different candidates have advantages on different traits, and that the opinions expressed by media pundits about how the candidates are viewed by the voters are often simplistic, and sometimes quite mistaken. Character traits are important to voters, but we need a better and more complete understanding of how and why these factors influence voters.

An essential read which provides a clear and original argument to all those interested in furthering their understanding of the importance of candidate character traits for the quality of American elections and democracy.

Table of Contents

1. Candidate Character Traits in Presidential Elections  2. Conceptualizing and Measuring Candidate Character Traits  3. Voter Perceptions of Candidate Character Traits  4. The Impact of Candidate Character Trait Perceptions on the Vote  5. The Formation of Candidate Character Trait Perceptions  6. Candidate Character Traits in the 2012 Presidential Election  7. Media Consumption, Character Trait Perceptions, and Voting  8. May the Best Person Win

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David Holian is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Charles L. Pyrsby is Professor of Political Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.


"Character Traits in Presidential Elections is an extraordinary analysis that contributes a new level of understanding to an area much discussed but relatively neglected by social scientists. The personal qualities and character perceptions of presidential candidates are assumed to affect voter decision-making. Precisely how and of what degree of importance compared to other influences has been a murky area for interpretation. This is no longer the case. Holian and Prysby assess how such qualities impact the vote; what shapes and influences the development of such attributes; and the type of voter most likely to perceive individual personalities as determined of the vote. They do it with style and an in-depth familiarity with their subjects that in itself provides a good read. This is an exceptionally sophisticated study, one that fills a major void in our analysis of voting behavior. It should be required reading for all students of elections and the forces that serve to shape the outcomes"

William Crotty, Thomas P. O'Neill Chair in Public Life and Professor of Political Science at Northeastern University.

"Everyone knows that candidate character matters in presidential elections but until now political scientists have not shown how, when and why it matters. This book by Charles Prysby and David Holian finally provides answers to these critical questions. It should be must reading for anyone interested in understanding the way American presidents are chosen."

—Alan I. Abramowitz, Emory University

"This analysis examines factors that influence perception of presidential character, demonstrates that character has an independent impact upon voting, and examines which kinds of voters (independents) are most influenced by perceptions of character.  The book is well written, and its statistical analysis is clearly explained.  This well-received volume expands knowledge of an important area of inquiry."

-- A. D. McNitt, Eastern Illinois University