In coverage of primaries and elections I often hear it stated that candidates are expected to win their home states, or that it is embarrassing not to. I've seen this assertion here, such as in Has a presidential candidate ever lost his home state and went on to win the presidential election?, and from the data I can find it does appear that candidates regularly do far better in their home state than in others. The only explanation I've heard for this effect is that home state voters are 'the people that know the candidate best'. This explanation doesn't sit right with me.
I have a few friends who are very seriously into politics. These friends read political news and do political research daily. They know all of the candidates and their policies and their histories intimately, and have no better understanding of candidates hailing from their own states. I don't see a reason why these people would be more likely to vote for someone just because that someone was geographically close to them. I polled a few of them on their historical votes and they did not seem any more likely to vote for a home state candidate.
I did a little informal poll myself over the past few days, talking to neighbors and cashiers while out. It's not a statistically valid sample size, and it was certainly biased sampling, but only 6 out of 11 knew who our governor was (it's Tom Wolf). Only 1 out of 11 could name a single thing Tom Wolf has done or said in the past 12 months. I personally haven't so much as overheard his name in months*. So it seems like 10 of 11 of my random pollees would have no reason to vote for their governor over another candidate were he running for office.
So what does actually drive the increased performance of a candidate in their own state. Is it simple name recognition? Do candidates simply tend to spend far more time and money advertising and rallying in their home states? Are those I've spoken to an anomaly, and most people are familiar with their home state politicians? Or is there some psychology that I'm not seeing that's at play?
- To be clear, I'm not saying that he hasn't done anything of consequence; just that it seems outside the scope of the average person's knowledge.