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I am interested in what factors are correlated with ticket-splitting in the United States, particularly whether voters with low information are more likely to vote for a split-ticket.

The motivation for this question is noticing that certain states in New England, for example, Massachusetts, regularly elect Republican governors despite their entire federal congressional delegation being composed of Democrats, and 50% of voters in the state identifying as independents. This is in contrast to states such as Utah, Oklahoma or Wyoming, where this disparity has not been observed since 2010.

I have read on Wikipedia that low information voters are more likely to vote for a split ticket. Is there any available data or academic analysis which confirms this?

This is not an attack question. I just want to know if, in America, people who vote for different parties at the same election are less informed.

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  • Welcome to Politics SE! You're asking us to speculate on what goes on in the minds of these voters, which is not something that we can do here. Please take the tour and visit the help center to learn more about what kinds of questions we can answer on this site, and if you can edit it to fit the guidelines, then please do so. – Joe C Aug 30 '20 at 16:10
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    It would seem that ticket splitting should be the result of MORE information, not less. E.g. even though I might generally lean Republican, I know a lot about this particular Republican candidate and wouldn't vote for him under any circumstances. (Naming no names, you understand :-)) – jamesqf Aug 30 '20 at 18:08
  • When I'm voting for a municipal officer, I don't care at all about what letter they put next to their name. I care about what, if anything, they propose to do about [local issue X]. In my case, X is the housing shortage, but different locales have different problems, and different people in those locales will have different opinions about how to solve them (e.g. rent control vs. build more housing vs. split-roll property taxes, etc. - all of which are Democratic ideas, because the Republicans hold no power in California, so the letter next to someone's name means nothing anyway). – Kevin Aug 31 '20 at 23:59
  • listening to/ reading a lot of propaganda might make you more "engaged" and "ideological" and you would know more about political current events, but it wouldn't necessarily make you "more informed". – YellowBadger Sep 1 '20 at 20:16
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To examine this, I've used the CCES data from 2016. I've identified ticket-splitting voters as those who, given the option, didn't vote for a straight Democrat or Republican ticket for the offices of President, Senate, House, and other state offices. Of the 64,600 respondents to this edition of the survey, after weighting to take into account demographics, this resulted in 16,896 respondents who voted for a straight Republican ticket, and 18,140 who voted for a straight Democrat ticket. After removing non-voters, this leaves us with 17,906 voters who voted for a split ticket.

We can now look at how these different sets of respondents fared in the questions which sought to evaluate their political awareness. These involved identifying which party held the majority of seats in the Senate, the House of Representatives, their own state's upper & lower legislative chambers, and the party of their Governor.

The results are summarised below. I found that the result suggested in the question held - respondents who voted for a split ticket were generally a lot worse at answering the political knowledge questions posed in the survey than those who voted for a straight ticket, no matter whether that ticket was Republican or Democratic.

Bear in mind the limitations of using these questions in particular - a voter may not know much about the partisan make-up of Congress, but may be more aware of a local race or local issues which inform their choice to vote for a split ticket.

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  • Hmmm. I guess the OP was onto something. The Republican and Democratic voters are more engaged, with Republicans slightly more than Democrats. – Michael Mormon Sep 1 '20 at 13:12
  • Can you add an example question that would have been marked correct/incorrect? – Azor Ahai -him- Sep 1 '20 at 14:34
  • @AzorAhai--hehim the questions were exactly as described in the 2nd paragraph of the answer; for example, the 'House' question was "Which party has a majority of seats in the House of Representatives?". The ~40k respondents who answered "Republicans" were scored as correct, while the remaining responses of "Democrats", "Neither", or "Not Sure" I scored as incorrect. – CDJB Sep 1 '20 at 14:39
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    The problem is that those "political knowledge" questions come with a built-in assumption that the person answering them CARES about partisan makeup rather than issues. I would think someone who votes a split ticket cares more about where individual candidates stand on issues, and how well they're likely to do the job, than about what letter is next to their name on the ballot. – jamesqf Sep 1 '20 at 16:12
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    @jamesqf While I absolutely support the point you're making, not caring only explains getting 50% wrong, which is what you get when guessing. Being significantly more than 50% wrong is being misinformed. – Peter Sep 24 '20 at 11:31
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It's better to ask about about what strategies or rubrics people use when choosing a candidate than about a specific outcome like ticket-splitting. Ticket-splitting can be a strategy — a deliberate choice with the intention of creating a power-balance between party interests — but more often it's a result of the application of different rubrics, some of which aren't particularly conscious or deliberate. Trust and familiarity are often important considerations (which is why incumbents generally have a distinct advantage in elections), but a hodgepodge of different factors can have significant impacts: things like a perception of weakness or failure, a particularly salient policy issue, ongoing civic frustrations, etc.

New England is an interesting case, because for the most part New England is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. Social liberalism tends to be more salient in national elections, where New Englanders see themselves in a 'Yankee' perspective, opposing the entrenched social illiberalism of the deep South and Southwest. But for state and local elections they tend to be thrifty and frugal, and align more with moderate conservative worldviews. Think of New Englanders as being motivated by the spirit of Ben Franklin, and the sometimes odd politics of the region make more sense.

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