Coattails, Raincoats, and Congressional Election Outcomes
by Steven Rogers, Saint Louis University
In “Coattails, Raincoats, and Congressional Elections Outcomes,” Steven Rogers of Saint Louis University highlights the importance of voter turnout for the impact of presidential coattails in congressional elections. One logic behind presidential coattail effects is less politically engaged “peripheral” voters “surge” to the polls to support a presidential candidate and also support this candidate’s congressional copartisans while at the polls. Under the assumption these peripheral voters are less likely to turn out when the costs of voting are higher – such as during a rainstorm – Rogers discovers that coattails shorten on rainy Election Days, as reflected by a weaker relationship between county-level presidential and congressional voting.
Rogers’ findings uniquely provide evidence that presidential coattails are partly turnout driven. While it would take a torrential downpour – over 1.5 inches of above average rain – to entirely wash out coattail effects in Congressional elections, any dampening of coattails can affect how many allies a President has Congress. If the President then wants to have a more successful first hundred days in office, Rogers’ research suggests some of his or her peripheral supporters need umbrellas on Election Day.
Perspectives on Politics, 04 January 2019, pp. 347-352