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Party Identification, Voter Attitudes, and Voter Behavior in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, 1980–2012: Real Difference or Election Law Mirage?

James E. Vike


This study examines the extent to which pronounced differences in voter registration statistics between Pennsylvania and New Jersey are truly indicative of significant differences in political attitudes and voter behavior across citizens of these neighboring states. The analysis is based upon an examination of cumulative 1980–2012 American National Election Study (ANES) survey data. Although there is evidence that minor differences in partisan attachments exist, there is no evidence that these differences are manifest in diminished interest, efficacy, polarization levels, participation rates, or straight-ticket voting behavior. The central conclusion of this study is that the elevated tendency of New Jersey voters to register as unaffiliated is less of a marker of greater independent orientations and more of an election law mirage that furthers a myth of mounting citizen independence from partisan affiliations. Furthermore, these findings support the conclusion that a follow-up methodology for determining true partisan attachments among ANES respondents is a more accurate predictor of partisan attitudes and behavior than methods relying upon an initial probe of self-identified partisanship or statewide voter registration statistics. 

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