Negative Voting Revisited: The 2020 US Presidential Election

Diego Garzia, Frederico Ferreira da Silva

Nº 2021-1



How to cite this article :

Garzia, D. &  Silva, F. (2021). Negative Voting Revisited: The 2020 US Presidential Election. FORS Working Paper Series, paper 2021-01. Lausanne: FORS. DOI:10.24440/FWP-2021-00001

Keywords :

affective polarization, anti-candidate voting, negative partisanship, political sectarianism

Abstract :

About one third of American voters cast a vote more ‘against’ than ‘for’ a candidate in the 2020 Presidential election. This pattern, designated by negative voting, has been initially understood by rational choice scholarship as a product of cognitive dissonance and/or retrospective evaluations. This working paper revisits this concept through the affective polarization framework in the light of the rise of political sectarianism in American society. Based on an original CAWI survey fielded after the 2020 election, our regression analysis demonstrates that the predicted probability of casting a negative vote significantly increases among individuals for whom out-candidate hate outweighs in-candidate love. Negative voting is less prevalent among partisans as their higher levels of in-group affection can offset out-group contempt. By asserting the enduring relevance of negative voting in American presidential elections, we aim at stimulating further comparative research and discussion of its implications for democratic representation.


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