Top Candidates May Not Influence Lower End Of Indiana Ballot

Political scientists in the state say strong candidates at the top of a ticket may not influence other elections like they used to.

Mitt Romney on campaign stop in Indianapolis.

Photo: Gretchen Frazee/WFIU-WTIU

Mitt Romney speaks at the American Legion National Convention on Wednesday, August 29, 2012.

Despite Indiana’s forecasted support for the Mitt Romney – Paul Ryan presidential ticket and Mike Pence’s gubernatorial bid, a coattail effect – the potential for popular candidates to attract voters to their party in other elections– is up in the air.

DePauw University political science professor Bruce Stinebrickner says coattail effects are less prominent than in the past because Americans are trending away from voting for one party for every election on the ballot.

“We know that split-ticket voting has increased in the United States over the last 60 years,” Stinebrickner says. “Over the generations, we’ve been softened up, the idea that Americans go to the polls and they look at different races and they’re not as inclined to vote for all the candidates in one party.”

Franklin College political science department chair Randall Smith says the one detractor may be Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, whose comments on rape during a debate last week may turn off some voters.  But Smith says he doesn’t anticipate Mourdock’s gaffe dragging down fellow Republicans.

“I believe that Mourdock’s recent comments are going to hinder him in a race,” Smith says. “And since he does stand right-of-center, I believe that many Hoosiers are looking at him and saying, well, he’s too conservative. He’s a little too far out there for us.”

When Barack Obama carried Indiana in 2008 – the first time a Democrat had done so since Lyndon Johnson 44 years earlier — the enthusiasm of Democratic voters did not produce a coattail effect for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long-Thompson, who lost in a landslide to Republican Mitch Daniels.

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