Invisible Coattails: Presidential Approval and Gubernatorial Elections, 1994–2014

Elliott Fullmer 1  and Rebecca Daniel 1
  • 1 Randolph-Macon College, 114 College Ave., Ashland, USA
Elliott Fullmer
  • Corresponding author
  • Randolph-Macon College, 114 College Ave., Ashland, USA
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  • Dr. Elliott Fullmer is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Randolph-Macon College. His research focuses on elections and voting behavior in the US.
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and Rebecca Daniel
  • Corresponding author
  • Randolph-Macon College, 114 College Ave., Ashland, USA
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  • Mrs. Rebecca Daniel graduated with a political science degree from Randolph-Macon College in 2016. She is now pursuing a career in political advocacy.
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Hoping to insulate their contests from national politics, thirty-six states hold their gubernatorial elections in national midterm election years. Many scholars have assessed whether presidential evaluations nevertheless have an effect on these races, though findings have varied. We offer a new approach to examining this question, relying on underutilized state-level presidential approval data preceding 143 gubernatorial races across six national midterm election cycles. Accounting for the effects of state ideology, gubernatorial approval, campaign spending, state economic performance, and incumbency, we report that presidential approval has a positive and significant effect on the performance of the presidential party in gubernatorial races. The substantive effects are modest, though still potentially meaningful. In the primary specification, an additional six points of presidential approval is associated with about one additional point of gubernatorial vote share.

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