How Voters Decide

Information Processing in Election Campaigns

by Richard R. Lau,

Series: Cambridge Studies in Public Opinion and Political Psychology

This book attempts to redirect the field of voting behavior research by proposing a paradigm-shifting framework for studying voter decision making. An innovative experimental methodology is presented for getting 'inside the heads' of citizens as they confront the overwhelming rush of information from modern presidential election campaigns. Four broad theoretically-defined types of decision strategies that voters employ to help decide which candidate to support are described and operationally-defined. Individual and campaign-related factors that lead voters to adopt one or another of these strategies are examined. Most importantly, this research proposes a new normative focus for the scientific study of voting behavior: we should care about not just which candidate received the most votes, but also how many citizens voted correctly - that is, in accordance with their own fully-informed preferences.

In The Press

"How Voters Decide: Information Processing during Election Campaigns is a major contribution to our understanding of voting behavior, decision making, and political psychology. Richard Lau and David Redlawsk have employed an innovative methodology to investigate the processes by which voters make sense of the enormous flow of information in a election campaign. The research is carefully designed and analyzed and the results yield insights into mechanisms of political information processing that are normally hidden from view by the standard research methods used in political science. This research shows how the strategies that people use to process information affect the electoral decisions they make and, ultimately, the extent to which elections truly represent the interests of voters." Stanley Feldman, Stony Brook University