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Perceptions of Electability: Candidate (and Voter) Ideology, Race, and Gender

Hassell, Hans J. G.; Visalvanich, Neil

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Hans J. G. Hassell


Previous work has shown candidate electability is an important consideration to voters in deciding who to support. However, we do not know what candidate qualities voters consider more electable, especially in the absence of polling information. While scholarship has documented general election penalties for candidates with certain demographic and ideological characteristics, we do not know whether voters actually use these factors when judging electability. Using a conjoint experimental design, we examine how candidate characteristics influence perceptions of candidate electability. We find voters perceive women and minorities as less electable and ideologically extreme candidates as more electable. However, perceptions of electability vary with voter characteristics. Our results indicate that arguments about electability, for many individuals, are based on their own ideological preferences (and to a lesser extent, their identity) rather than systematically viewing candidates with attributes that provide general election advantages as more electable.


Hassell, H. J. G., & Visalvanich, N. (2024). Perceptions of Electability: Candidate (and Voter) Ideology, Race, and Gender. Political Behavior,

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 24, 2023
Online Publication Date Jan 9, 2024
Publication Date Jan 9, 2024
Deposit Date Mar 25, 2024
Publicly Available Date Mar 25, 2024
Journal Political Behavior
Print ISSN 0190-9320
Electronic ISSN 1573-6687
Publisher Springer
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Keywords Sociology and Political Science
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Published Journal Article (Advanced Online Version) (1.1 Mb)


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