Split thicket voting means that one electorate chooses simultaneously for two or more different party options in different elections that are held concurrently, or more exactly when a voter supports or votes for a candidate against his or her party affiliation in order to prevent an undesirable result. This behavior is interesting and important and challenges some classical theories of electoral behavior: why is that the same person votes for two or more different party in a specific period of time? The purpose of this paper is to investigate split voting in the U.S. presidential and congress election.
Split voting in American elections is not unprecedented: of the 43American presidents, more than 20 were serving with a house of representative which was under the control of the opposing party. First of all I think we have to consider theories of voting behavior: Party identification theory argues that people vote due to their party affiliation which they feel some sort of psychological attachment developed during the voters life; issue voting model argues that people do not vote just due to their party affiliation or party identification but based on the important issues of their society. As it was mentioned split voting in America is not a new phenomenon, but what are the reasons for such a voting behavior?
There are some reasons for such behavior: It can be argued that when people feel more dissatisfaction with national executive performance the probability of ticket splitting will increase and the voters tend to elect a party that would change and moderate the situation. So one of the reasons for split voting in America is voter’s intention for creating a sort of balance in both presidential and congressional electorates; in this way the power would be distributed between the two parties that are influential in different institutions and it creates more balance and control. This case can be seen during Bush’s presidency and his two wars of attrition in Iraq and Afghanistan, Americans who were searching for more stability voted for Democrats.
Another explanation for such a behavior is known as accidental model of split- ticket voting: it says that voters decision in both presidential and Congressional election are independent; it means that they do not depend on any preference of the voters on the final configuration of the forces in different institutions. So what make electors to act are the political offers that the parties in each election present. On the other hand, split-ticket voting could happen because of differences of what the citizens demand in each type of election. In America, although the voters demand the executive an effort to maximize the collective goods, they demand to legislative power an effort to minimize individual risks, to optimize wealth distribution and minimize local costs. (Jacobson 1991: 641), so as you see people have different expectations from executive and legislative branch.
So it can be argued that Americans mostly vote based on issue voting model than party identification.