Collections > Electronic Theses and Dissertations > Context Cues: Weighted Cues, Place Identity, and the Candidate Evaluation Process

When called to choose between candidates for political office, how do voters sort through multiple, often conflicting group-based cues to decide how to cast their ballot? I propose a weighted cue theory of candidate evaluation, in which individuals take multiple vote cues into account but hold some cues as more influential to their vote choice than others. Citizens weigh group cues as a function of the strength of group identity and the salience of that group identity in the campaign context. I test the theory by comparing the effects of party cues (Democratic and Republican) and place identity cues (rural and urban) through a survey-embedded candidate evaluation experiment. Results of the survey provide little support for the theory. Rather than taking both partisan and place cues into account at different weights, respondents only drew upon partisan cues to evaluate the candidate. The study suggests that place identity is an important political cue to few individuals and provides a marginal explanation for differences in voting patterns between rural and urban places in the United States.