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
  • Email
  • Further information
  • 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.
  • Search for other articles:
  • degruyter.comGoogle Scholar
and Rebecca Daniel
  • Corresponding author
  • Randolph-Macon College, 114 College Ave., Ashland, USA
  • Email
  • Further information
  • Mrs. Rebecca Daniel graduated with a political science degree from Randolph-Macon College in 2016. She is now pursuing a career in political advocacy.
  • Search for other articles:
  • degruyter.comGoogle Scholar

Abstract

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.

  • Abramowitz, Alan, and Steven Webster. 2015. “All Politics is National: The Rise of Negative Partisanship and the Nationalization of U.S. House and Senate Elections in the 21st Century.” Prepared for presentation at the Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, Illinois, April 16–19, 2015.

  • Alesina, Alberto, and Howard Rosenthal. 1995. Partisan Politics, Divided Government and the Economy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  • Atkeson, Lonna Rae, and Randall W. Partin. 1995. “Economic and Referendum Voting: A Comparison of Gubernatorial and Senatorial Elections.” The American Political Science Review 89 (1): 99–107.

  • Bafumi, Joseph, and Robert Y. Shapiro. 2009. “A New Partisan Voter.” The Journal of Politics 71 (1): 1–24.

  • Bailey, Michael, and Elliott Fullmer. 2011. “Balancing in the U.S. States, 1978–2009.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 11 (2): 148–166.

  • Berry, William D., Evan J. Ringquist, Richard C. Fording, and Russell L. Hanson. 1998. “Measuring Citizen and Government Ideology in the American States.” American Journal of Political Science 42: 327–348.

  • Berry, William D., Evan J. Ringquist, Richard C. Fording, and Russell L. Hanson. 2007. “The Measurement and Stability of State Citizen Ideology.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 7: 111–132.

  • Beyle, Thad, and Lynn Muchmore, eds. 1983. Being Governor: The View from the Office. Durham, NC: Duke Press Policy Studies.

  • Beyle, Thad L., and Jennifer Jensen. 2015. “Gubernatorial Campaign Expenditures Database.” Available at http://www.unc.edu/∼beyle/guber.html (August 10, 2016).

  • Beyle, Thad, Richard Niemi, and Lee Sigelman. 2002. “Gubernatorial, Senatorial, and State-level Presidential Job Approval: The U.S. Officials Job Approval Ratings (JAR) Collection.” State Politics and Policy Quarterly 2 (3): 215–229.

  • Beyle, Thad, Richard Niemi, and Lee Sigelman. 2006. “Job Approval Ratings.” The University of Rochester, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, & George Washington University. Available at http://www.unc.edu/%7Ebeyle/jars.html.

  • Campbell, Angus. 1966. “Surge and Decline: A Study of Electoral Change.” In Elections and the Political Order, edited by Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller and Donald E. Stokes, 40–62. New York: Wiley.

  • Campbell, James E. 1985. “Explaining Presidential Losses in Midterm Congressional Elections.” Journal of Politics 47: 1140–1157.

  • Campbell, James E. 1991. “The Presidential Surge and its Midterm Decline in Congressional Elections.” Journal of Politics 53: 477–487.

  • Carsey, Thomas M., and Gerald C. Wright. 1998. “State and National Factors in Gubernatorial and Senatorial Elections.” American Journal of Political Science 42 (3): 1008–1011.

  • Castleton Polling Institute. 2014. “WCAX News 2014 Election Poll.” Available at http://www.castleton.edu/about-castleton/the-castleton-polling-institute/poll-results/vermont-election-poll-2014/ (February 12, 2017).

  • Cohen, Jeffrey E. 2007. “The Polls: Presidential Referendum Effects in the 2006 Midterm Elections.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 37 (3): 545–557.

  • Engstrom, Erik J., and Samuel Kernell. 2014. Party Ballots, Reform, and the Transformation of America’s Electoral System. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

  • Enten, Harry. 2014. “Despite A Strange Poll, Scott Walker’s Still the Favorite to Win in Wisconsin.” FiveThirtyEight. Available at https://fivethirtyeight.com/datalab/poll-wisconsin-scott-walker-re-election/.

  • Erikson, Robert S. 1988. “The Puzzle of Midterm Loss.” Journal of Politics 50 (4): 1011–1029.

  • Erikson, Robert S. 2002. “Explaining National Party Tides in Senate Elections: Macropartisanship, Policy Mood, and Ideological Balancing.” In U.S. Senate Exceptionalism, edited by Bruce I. Oppenheimer. Columbus, OH: Ohio State University.

  • Fiorina, Morris P., Samuel J. Abrams, and Jeremy C. Pope. 2010. Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America. 3rd ed. Harlow: Longman.

  • Green, Donald P., and Jonathan S. Krasno. 1990. “Rebuttal to Jacobson’s ‘New Evidence for Old Arguments.’” American Journal of Political Science 34 (2): 363–372.

  • Greenberg, Stanley B. 2004. The Two Americas: Our Current Political Deadlock and How to Break It. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

  • Grunge. 2014. “Oregon Governor: Kitzhaber 48%, Richardson 38%.” Grunge. Available at https://presidentialpolls.com/carriere/oregon-governor-kitzhaber-48-richardson-38/.

  • Hinckley, Barbara. 1967. “Interpreting House Midterm Elections: Toward a Measurement of the In-Party’s ‘Expected’ Loss of Seats.” American Political Science Review 61: 694–700.

  • Hopkins, Dan. 2014. “All Politics Is Presidential.” FiveThirtyEight. Available at http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/all-politics-is-presidential/.

  • Jackson, Robert A. 1993. “Voter Mobilization in the 1986 Midterm Election.” Journal of Politics 55: 1081–1099.

  • Jacobson, Gary. 1980. Money in Congressional Elections. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

  • Jacobson, Gary. 1990. “The Effects of Campaign Spending in House Elections: New Evidence for Old Arguments.” American Journal of Political Science 34 (2): 334–362.

  • Jacobson, C. Gary. 2003. “Terror, Terrain, and Turnout: Explaining the 2002 Midterm Elections.” Political Science Quarterly 118: 1–22.

  • Jacobson, Gary C. 2005. “Polarized Politics and the 2004 Congressional and Presidential Elections.” Political Science Quarterly 120 (2): 199–218.

  • Jacobson, Gary. 2013. “Partisan Polarization in American Politics: A Background Paper.” Presidential Studies Quarterly 43: 688–708.

  • Leip, Dave. 1994–2014. Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Available at http://www.uselectionatlas.org (June 3, 2016).

  • Levonson, Michael. 2014. “Patrick’s legacy shows dents.” Boston Globe. Available at https://www.bostonglobe.com/metro/2014/10/16/patrick-legacy-shows-dents-coakley-baker-tied/ZwgBK3ej2l4sicp6Q2LjKN/story.html.

  • Marquette University Law School. 2014. “Marquette Law School Poll.” Available at https://law.marquette.edu/poll/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/MLSP27ToplinesLV.pdf.

  • Mebane, Walter. 2000. “Coordination, Moderation, and Institutional Balancing in American Presidential and House Elections.” American Political Science Review 94 (March): 37–57.

  • Mebane, Walter, and Jasjeet S. Sekhon. 2002. “Coordination and Policy Moderation at Midterm.” American Political Science Review 96 (March): 141–157.

  • Morehouse, Sarah McCally. 1981. State Politics, Parties, and Policy. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

  • Morris, Joseph M. 2014. “Race for Governor of Pennsylvania and the Use of Force Against ISIS.” The Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics at Mercyhurst University (February 12, 2017).

  • National Institute on Money in State Politics. 1994–2014. “State Overviews.” Available at http://www.followthemoney.org/ (June 30, 2016).

  • Partin, Randall W. 2002. “Assessing the Impact of Campaign Spending in Governor’s Races.” Political Research Quarterly 30: 213–233.

  • Patterson, Samuel C. 1982. “Campaign Spending in Contests for Governor.” Western Political Quarterly 35: 457–477.

  • Patterson, Samuel C., and Gregory A. Caldeira. 1983. “Getting Out the Vote: Participation in Gubernatorial Elections.” American Political Science Review 77: 675–689.

  • Piereson, James E. 1975. “Presidential Popularity and Midterm Voting at Different Electoral Levels.” American Journal of Political Science 19: 683–694.

  • Public Policy Polling. 2014. “2014 Archive.” Available at http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2014-archive.html (June 18, 2016).

  • Robertson, Nigel. 2014. “WYFF4 Conducts Palmetto Politics Poll.” WYFF. Available at http://www.wyff4.com/article/wyff4-conducts-palmetto-politics-poll/7009928.

  • Sabato, Larry. 1983. Goodbye to Good-time Charlie: The American Governorship Transformed. 2nd ed. Washington: Congressional Quarterly Press.

  • Siena Research Institute. 2016. “Governor Approval Ratings Trends.” Siena College. Available at https://www.siena.edu/centers-institutes/siena-research-institute/political-polls/governors-approval-ratings-trends/ (February 12, 2017).

  • Simon, Dennis M. 1989. “Presidents, Governors, and Electoral Accountability.” Journal of Politics 51: 286–304.

  • Simon, M. Dennis, Charles W. Ostrom Jr., and Robin F. Marra. 1991. “The President, Referendum Voting, and Subnational Elections in the United States.” The American Political Science Review 85 (4): 1177–1192.

  • Star Advertiser. 2014. “Hawai’i Poll.” Star-Advertiser/Hawaii News Now. Available at http://hine.ws/specials/news/hipoll_jul2014_gov.pdf.

  • “50 State Tracking Polls.” 2006. Survey USA. Available at http://www.surveyusa.com/50StateTracking.html (June 8, 2016).

  • SurveyUSA. 2006. “Polls.” Available at http://www.surveyusa.com/PollHistory.aspx?d=2006 (June 18, 2016).

  • Tompkins, Mark E. 1988. “Have Gubernatorial Elections Become More Distinctive Contests?” The Journal of Politics 50 (1): 192–205.

  • Topaz, Jonathan. 2014. “Calif. Poll: Obama Sinks to Record Low.” Politico. Available at http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/poll-obama-california-approval-rating-110507.

  • Tufte, Edward R. 1975. “Determinants of the Outcomes of Midterm Congressional Election.” American Political Science Review 69: 812–826.

  • U.S. Department of Labor. 2016. “Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Available at http://bls.gov/ (June 18, 2016).

  • Vanderbilt University. 2014. “Vanderbilt University Fall 2014 Poll.” Available at http://www.vanderbilt.edu/csdi/November2014VUPollQuestionnaire.pdf (February 12, 2017).

  • YouGov. 2014. “Battleground Tracker 2014: National Attitudes.” YouGov. Available at https://today.yougov.com/news/2014/09/07/battleground-tracker-2014-national-attitudes/#/Wave3StatebyState.

  • Yuan, Y. C. 2000. “Multiple Imputation for Missing Data: Concepts and New Development.” In Proceedings of the Twenty-Fifth Annual SAS Users Group International Conference (Paper No. 267). Cary, NC: SAS Institute.

Purchase article
Get instant unlimited access to the article.
$42.00
Log in
Already have access? Please log in.


Journal + Issues

This journal provides a forum for professionally informed commentary on issues affecting contemporary American politics. This includes but is not limited to issues engaging parties, elections, and political participation; the news media, interest groups, Congress, the Presidency, and the Courts; trends in public finance, presidential popularity, congressional productivity; in contemporary, historical, or comparative perspective.

Search