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Candidates and Voters: Ideology, Valence, and Representation in U.S. Elections, Walter J. Stone

Reviewed by Benjamin Ogden

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Students of political behavior have focused on the alleged deficiencies of voters to recall basic political facts, determine what knowledge is policy relevant, or remove cognitive and behavioral biases from their attempts to hold politicians accountable. Moreover, it is reasonable to expect voters to be “rationally ignorant,” as “it makes more sense for citizens to devote their private lives . . . where their efforts have direct personal payoffs, rather than to politics where their efforts are lost in a sea of others’ actions” (p. 24).

Such pessimism may occur because “the discipline has not been adequately focused on the political context to which voters react in elections” (p. 2). In other words, given the choices available, do voters and electorates do a decent job of making decisions, and therefore receive good representation? The author posits that “elections work better than you think” (p. 1).

Consider a sparse but general model of voting: voters seek to elect a politician who is closer to them ideologically, and voters also wish to select the more competent representative. To observe “correct voting,” one can abstract from voter perceptions by using a panel of local experts (for example, political delegates, local legislators) to measure the

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