A Twitter friend notes that Kansas voters exhibit the same schizophrenia at the ballot box as South Dakota voters. They’ll vote liberal on some ballot measures, like their defense of their constitutional right to abortion at this week’s primary, but they keep voting for the conservative legislators who try doing things like erasing that right. South Dakota voters behave the same, rejecting nefarious Republican measures like Amendment C while reëlecting the nefarious Republican authors of those measures. Measures expanding Medicaid, legalizing marijuana, and boosting the minimum wage have passed in a number of red states.
So yay: at least the ballot measure/candidate disconnect isn’t unique to South Dakota voters. But what causes that disconnect?
Governing‘s Alan Greenblatt says focusing voters’ attention on a single policy issue helps them forget party labels:
For one thing, voters presented with a ballot question are deciding a single issue. They don’t have to weigh it against other possible priorities, as they do when candidates are running on a whole platform of causes. Also, policy preferences don’t overlap perfectly with party identification. Most people stay loyal to one party or the other over the course of their lives, even though parties shift over time when it comes to the issue mix they’re pushing. That’s especially true during a highly polarized era, when most Republicans wouldn’t consider voting for a Democrat (and vice versa) [Alan Greenblatt, “Liking Liberal Policies But Not Liberal Politicians,” Governing, 2022.08.05].
But Greenblatt does not think that disconnect is inevitable. He seconds a motion I’ve made and practiced throughout my politicking—liberal candidates need to seek synergy with liberal voting patterns on ballot measures:
Although progressives have gotten wise about turning to ballot initiatives to push priorities they can’t move through Republican-controlled legislatures, they aren’t always strategic about wedding popular causes to candidate campaigns, suggests Joshua Dyck, director of the Center for Public Opinion at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Republicans in past decades were careful about timing tax cut and same-sex marriage measures to help them more broadly at the ballot box, he notes, but few Democrats run on what turn out to be winning issues such as marijuana legalization.
“Democrats now have an opportunity to tailor abortion ballot measures in red states to bolster party support,” Dyck says. “The question is, will they see and effectively use this strategy?” [Greenblatt, 2022.08.05]
If voters prefer Pepsi, the candidates who make Pepsi should wear their Pepsi buttons to every event and remind people that the other guys make yucky old Coke.