General Ideological Orientations

Voters also tend to have general ideological orientations and dispositions. While most voters lack a well articulated and clearly thought out political ideology, they usually have some general ideological tendencies or predispositions. Some are strongly liberal across the board, others strongly conservative, and still others are moderates in most areas. Some may tend to be liberal in one area, such as social issues, but conservative in another, such as economic issues. These general ideological orientations influence voting (Miller and Shanks 1996, 288-294).

The effect of ideology on the presidential vote occurs for several reasons. Ideology affects positions on specific issues. For example, voters who are strong conservatives are likely to take conservative positions on new issues as they arise. As discussed above, positions on specific policy issues influence how voters cast their ballots in presidential elections, so this influence is one path by which ideology affects the vote. Ideology also may influence party identification, which is another path of influence. Finally, voters may have a general ideological perception of a candidate, even if they are unsure about the candidate's position on specific policy issues, and this general perception may influence their vote.