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Foreign Affairs and Issue Voting: Do Presidential Candidates “Waltz Before a Blind Audience?”

  • John H. Aldrich (a1), John L. Sullivan (a2) and Eugene Borgida (a2)

Abstract

While candidates regularly spend much time and effort campaigning on foreign and defense policies, the thrust of prevailing scholarly opinion is that voters possess little information and weak attitudes on these issues, which therefore have negligible impact on their voting behavior. We resolve this anomaly by arguing that public attitudes on foreign and defense policies are available and cognitively accessible, that the public has perceived clear differences between the candidates on these issues in recent elections, and that these issues have affected the public's vote choices. Data indicate that these conclusions are appropriate for foreign affairs issues and domestic issues.

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