"Sour grapes" or rational voting? Voter decision making among thwarted primary voters in 2008

Journal Article (Journal Article)

During the 2008 presidential campaign, journalists and pundits debated the electoral consequences of the prolonged and hard-fought nomination contest between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. Previous research, typically using aggregate vote returns, has concluded that divisive primaries negatively impact the electoral prospects of the winning candidate. It is thought that supporters of the losing candidate are less likely to vote and more likely to defect because of psychological disaffection, or "sour grapes." Using a new panel dataset that traces individual candidate preferences during the primary and general election campaigns, we are able to explicitly examine individual-level decision making in the general election conditioned on voting behavior in the primary. Although "sour grapes" had a modest effect on eventual support for the party nominee, fundamental political considerations - especially attitudes on the War in Iraq - were far better predictors of the vote decision among thwarted voters. Moreover, we find that supporters of losing Democratic candidates were far more likely to vote for Obama if they lived in a battleground state. © The Author 2010. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research. All rights reserved.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Henderson, M; Hillygus, DS; Tompson, T

Published Date

  • March 1, 2010

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 74 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 499 - 529

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5331

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-362X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/poq/nfq008

Citation Source

  • Scopus