Presidents and presidential candidates influence voters’ decisions in down-ballot races both directly and indirectly and thus contribute crucially to their party’s performance on election day. Direct influence occurs through coattail effects in presidential election years and job performance rating effects in midterm years. Indirect influence is exerted through the president’s impact on feelings about his party, its reputation for competence, and aggregate party identification as well as by shaping the political climate that guides the strategic decisions of potential candidates and campaign contributors. Presidential influence on down-ballot voting has varied over the postwar period but since the 1970s has grown steadily, reaching levels in recent elections not seen since the peak era of ballot-induced straight-ticket voting in the 19th century.
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