Tim's article is published in a reputable journal

Wed 26 Jun 2024 08:28

Tim Segerberg recently received good news. His article, on whether the personal characteristics of US presidential candidates affect voters' propensity to vote, has been published in the journal Political Behavior.

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Tim Segerberg.

Tim Segerberg is a doctoral student in political science at Mid Sweden University in Östersund. Recently, he was informed that his article is called "The Personalization of Electoral Participation? The Relationship Between Trait Evaluations of Presidential Candidates and Turnout Decisions in American Presidential Elections 1980–2020" is published in the prestigious journal Political Behaviour. 

Can you tell us a little about the article? 

- In the article, I use American voter surveys to study how voters' assessments of presidential candidates' personal characteristics affect voter turnout in the last eleven presidential elections, 1980–2020. Specifically, I focus on voters' assessment of two dimensions of presidential candidates' personality: their competence and character. Competence is characterized by perceptions of the candidates' intelligence and leadership qualities, while the character is built by perceptions of the candidates' integrity and empathetic abilities," says Tim Segerberg.

What did you find?

- That party designation affects which personality traits mobilize voters to the polls. Voter turnout consistently increases when voters perceive that Republican candidates have strong character – while Democratic candidates mobilize voters by having a high level of competence. That polarised perceptions of the candidates' characteristics have a positive effect on the voting turnout of all voter groups. The results show that voters are not necessarily more likely to vote just because they like a candidate's personality. On the other hand, when the difference between the candidates is perceived as large, voters are more likely to vote. The positive effect of polarisation on voter turnout applies to both competence and character, in all voter groups. However, the strongest effect is for voters with weak party loyalty with polarised perceptions of the candidates' competence," says Tim Segerberg.

When voters feel that the differences between the candidates are great, they feel that their vote becomes more important, which can strengthen the legitimacy and vitality of democracy.

Was there anything you found particularly interesting about the result?

- That polarised perceptions of candidates have such a strong mobilising effect on voter turnout. In recent elections, we see that voters are becoming increasingly polarized in how they assess the competence and character of competing candidates, culminating in the most polarized presidential election ever in 2020. This polarization is also reflected in increased voter turnout, where the 2020 election was historically high in an American context. These results indicate that polarization, despite its negative connotations, can actually benefit democracy by driving a higher level of engagement and participation in the electoral process. When voters feel that the differences between the candidates are great, they feel that their vote becomes more important, which can strengthen the legitimacy and vitality of democracy," says Tim Segerberg.

Why did you choose to write about this topic? 

"While research on leadership effects usually focuses on the importance of the party leader for voters' party choices, we know less about how the relationship between political leaders and voters is created and how the relationship affects behaviour beyond party choice. This study deepens that understanding in two ways. Partly because it shows that perceptions of competence and character explain how voters evaluate and react to political leadership. Partly because voter turnout is another aspect that political leaders have the opportunity to exert influence on voters," says Tim Segerberg.

Read more

Here you can read Tim's full article

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The page was updated 7/5/2024