Document Type


Article Version

Publisher's PDF

Publication Date

Spring 1989


This article examines the advantages a single Democratic incumbent utilized to win reelection in 1984 despite an overwhelming victory by Ronald Reagan at the top of the ticket in the congressional district. The incumbent won reelection because of two types of ticket splitting: Republican-inclined voters who voted for Republican candidates for president and U.S. Senate and split to vote for the Democratic incumbent for Congress, and Democratic voters who supported Democratic candidates for U.S. Senate and Congress but split to vote for Ronald Reagan for president. Ticket splitting was found to be associated with basic political orientation—weak Republican and independent voters split in favor of the Democratic incumbent and were far less likely to vote a straight ticket for either party. Support for the Democratic incumbent was explained in nonideological terms and was based upon high recognition and favorability, constituent service, voting record, and personal familiarity. For the Republican challenger, who never achieved a high level of recognition (despite significant campaign expenditure), support came almost solely from the most partisan Republican members of the electorate and was based simply upon the party affiliation of the Republican challenger.


Copyright 1989 by University of Chicago Press.

Publication Title

Public Opinion Quarterly

Published Citation

Schlichting, Kurt. 1989. Democratic Incumbents and the 1984 Presidential Election: A Case Study. Public Opinion Quarterly 53(1):81-90.



Peer Reviewed