Working Paper Series
Robert S. Erikson, James M. Snyder Jr. and Olle Folke
A Gubernatorial Helping Hand? How Governors Affect Presidential Elections
Abstract: It is commonly argued in the media that a presidential
candidate will be helped in a state by having a governor of the same party
in office. However, there is little research to support this claim. To
address this question we use a regression discontinuity design. The basic
idea behind this is that in very close elections the party of the governor
is decided essentially by a coin flip. Focusing on these very close
elections therefore allows us to estimate the causal effect of
gubernatorial party control. We show that a presidential candidate is not
helped, but in fact hurt, by having a governor from the same party. On
average, winning the governor’s election leads to a 2–3 percentage point
reduction in a state’s presidential vote share in the following election.
Using a similar methodology, we also show that voters punish the
presidential party when voting for governor in midterm years. Having
established these relationships, we explore why this is the case. One
possible explanation is a variation of the ideological balancing argument,
whereby voters’ choices for one office are conditional on which party holds
office at a different level.
Keywords: Presidential Elections; Regression Discontinuity Design; Electoral Balancing; (follow links to similar papers)
JEL-Codes: H00; (follow links to similar papers)
19 pages, October 10, 2012
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