Issues Matter: A Case Study of Factors Influencing Voting Choices

  • Robert B. Smith


For an intended audience of applied statisticians and public opinion analysts who have a basic knowledge of statistics, this case study exemplifies the multivariate dependencies strategy of Cox and Wermuth. It develops graphical models of the voting choice in the 1992 Clinton-Perot-Bush presidential election. It documents how investigators can apply subject matter knowledge and statistical methods to election surveys, producing novel insights. It clarifies how social attributes, philosophical self-designation (liberal, centrist, conservative), party identification (Democrat, Independent, Republican), and the issues influence the voters’ choices. The issues form a left-center-right latent structure. The right is more ideologically consistent than the left but Clinton got much of the center’s vote and this led to his victory over Bush. Interactions among the issues indicate that Democratic advocacy of environmental protection may have weakened the effect of a negative campaign directed against Clinton’s character.