Cognitive Efficiency and the Congressional Vote: The Psychology of Coattail Voting

Jeffery J. Mondak, Carl Mccurley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Most recent studies of presidential coattails have attempted to specify the prevalence of coattail voting. In contrast, in this treatment we attempt to identify the psychological mechanism underlying the coattail effect. Our interpretation is that the coattail effect results from voters' reliance on a specific cognitive efficiency mechanism, heuristic processing. Using NES data from the 1976-88 presidential elections, we conduct a multi-level analysis of factors influencing the congressional vote choice. We find that coattail voting varies with attributes of both the individual voter and of the electoral context. These results are consistent with our argument that voters with high need for cognitive efficiency use their evaluations of presidential candidates as cues to guide the decision regarding which House candidate to support.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)151-175
Number of pages25
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1994
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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