Public Choice

, Volume 148, Issue 1–2, pp 87–104 | Cite as

Securing the base: electoral competition under variable turnout



I evaluate the ‘Securing the Base’ strategy, which prescribes that candidates position themselves away from the political center in order to maximize turnout among their supporters and reduce defections of their supporters to third party candidates. My results support the notion that voters abstain due to indifference and imply that candidate positioning has a large effect on voter turnout and third party voting. Nonetheless, my results indicate that the candidates can best compete by adopting centrist positions. While a candidate can increase turnout among his supporters by moving away from the center, many moderate voters will defect to his opponent.


Spatial competition Abstention 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, J. (2000). Multicandidate equilibrium in American elections. Public Choice, 103, 297–325. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adams, J., & Merrill, S. (2003). Voter turnout and candidate strategies in American elections. Journal of Politics, 65, 161–189. Google Scholar
  3. Adams, J., Merrill, S., & Grofman, B. (2005). A unified theory of party competition. New York: Cambridge University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Adams, J., Dow, J., & Merrill, S. (2006). The political consequences of abstention due to alienation and indifference: applications to presidential elections. Political Behavior, 28, 65–86. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alvarez, M., & Nagler, J. (1995). Economics, issues, and the Perot candidacy: voter choice in the 1992 presidential election. American Political Science Review, 3, 714–744. Google Scholar
  6. Ansolabehere, S., Snyder, J., & Stewart, C. (2001). Candidate positioning in U.S. House elections. American Journal of Political Science, 45, 136–149. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Banks, J., & Duggan, J. (2005). Probabilistic voting in the spatial model of elections: the theory of office motivated candidates. In D. Austen-Smith, & J. Duggan (Eds.), Social choice and strategic decisions: essays in honor of Jeffery S. Banks. New York: Springer. Google Scholar
  8. Black, D. (1958). The theory of committees and elections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Google Scholar
  9. Brody, R., & Page, B. (1973). Indifference, alienation, and rational decisions: the effects of candidate evaluation on turnout and the vote. Public Choice, 15, 1–17. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brownstein, R. (2004). Bush aims to solidify his base. Los Angeles Times. August 22. Google Scholar
  11. Burden, B. (2004). Candidate positioning in U.S. congressional elections. British Journal of Political Science, 34, 211–227. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Callander, S., & Wilson, C. (2006). Context-dependent voting. Quarterly Journal of Political Science, 1, 227–254. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Converse, P. (1966). The concept of the normal vote. In Campbell, et al. Elections and the political order. Google Scholar
  14. Coughlin, P., & Nitzan, S. (1981). Electoral outcomes with probabilistic voting and Nash social welfare optima. Journal of Public Economics, 15, 113–122. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper and Row. Google Scholar
  16. Erikson, R., & Romero, D. (1990). Candidate equilibrium and the behavioral model of the vote. American Political Science Review, 84, 1103–1126. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Geweke, J., Keane, M., & Runkle, D. (1994). Alternative computational approaches to inference in the multinomial probit model. Review of Economics and Statistics, 76, 609–632. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Glaeser, E., Ponzetto, G., & Shapiro, J. (2005). Strategic extremism: why Republicans and Democrats divide on religious values. Quarterly Journal of Economics, 4, 1283–1330. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hinich, M. (1977). Equilibrium in spatial voting: the median voter result is an artifact. Journal of Economic Theory, 16, 208–219. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hinich, M., & Ordeshook, P. (1969). Abstention in equilibrium and the electoral process. Public Choice, 7, 71–106. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Lacy, D., & Burden, B. (1999). The vote-stealing and turnout effects of Ross Perot in the 1992 presidential election. American Journal of Political Science, 43, 233–255. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Lacy, D., & Burden, B. (2001). The vote-stealing and turnout effects of third party candidates in U.S. presidential elections. Working paper. Google Scholar
  23. McKelvey, R., & Patty, J. (2006). A theory of voting in large elections. Games and Economic Behavior, 57, 155–180. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Milbank, D., & Allen, M. (2004). Bush fortifies conservative base: campaign seeks solid support before wooing swing voters. Washington Post, July 15. Google Scholar
  25. Miniter, B. (2005). The McCain myth: the moderation the makes him a Senate powerhouse will keep him out of the White House. The Wall Street Journal, May 31, 2005. Google Scholar
  26. Nagourney, A. (2003). Political parties shift emphasis to core voters. New York Times, August 30. Google Scholar
  27. Peress, Michael (2010). The spatial model with non-policy factors: a theory of policy-motivated candidates. Social Choice and Welfare, 34, 265–294. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Plane, D., & Gershtenson, J. (2004). Candidates ideological locations, abstention, and turnout in U.S. midterm Senate elections. Political Behavior, 26, 69–93. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Quinn, K., Martin, A., & Whitford, A. (1999). Voter choice in multi-party democracies: a test of competing theories and models. American Journal of Political Science, 43, 1231–1247. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Rosenstone, S., Behr, R., & Lazarus, E. (1984). Third parties in America: citizen response to major party failure. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Google Scholar
  31. Schofield, N. (2003). Valence competition in the spatial stochastic model. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 15, 371–383. Google Scholar
  32. Schofield, N. (2004). Equilibrium in the spatial ‘valence’ model of politics. Journal of Theoretical Politics, 16, 447–481. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Schofield, N., & Sened, I. (2006). Multiparty democracy: elections and legislative politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Schofield, N., Martin, A., Quinn, K., & Whitford, A. (1998). Multiparty electoral competition in the Netherlands and Germany: a model based on multinomial probit. Public Choice, 97, 257–293. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Spretnak, C. (2000). How Gore lost the Green vote. San Francisco Chronicle, November 19. Google Scholar
  36. Stokes D. (1963). Spatial models of party competition. American Political Science Review, 57, 368–377. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Thurner, P., & Eymann, A. (2000). Policy-specific alienation and indifference in the calculus of voting: a simultaneous model of party choice and abstention. Public Choice, 102, 51–77. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Wright, G., & Berkman, M. (1986). Candidates and policy in United States Senate elections. American Political Science Review, 80, 567–588. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zipp, J. (1985). Perceived representativeness and voting: an assessment of the impact of choice vs. echoes. American Political Science Review, 79, 50–61. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of RochesterRochesterUSA

Personalised recommendations