Why Americans Split Their Tickets

Campaigns, Competition, and Divided Government
Barry C. Burden and David C. Kimball
Argues that ticket splitting is an unintentional result of congressional campaigns


Why do some voters split their ballots, selecting a Republican for one office and a Democrat for another? Why do voters often choose one party to control the White House while the other controls the Congress? Citizens and politicians have been grappling with the consequences of such "divided government" for thirty years. In Why Americans Split their Tickets, Barry C. Burden and David C. Kimball address these fundamental puzzles of American elections.

Burden and Kimball explain the causes of divided government and, rejecting the dominant explanations for split-ticket voting, they debunk the myth that voters prefer divided government to one-party control. Likewise, they make a case against interpreting the frequency of divided government as a mandate for compromise between the parties' extremist positions. Instead, the authors argue that ticket splitting and divided government are the unintentional results of lopsided campaigns and the blurring of party differences.

In Why Americans Split their Tickets, Burden and Kimball use new quantitative methods to analyze the important changes in presidential, House, and Senate campaigns in the latter half of the twentieth century. Their approach explains the effects on voters' behavior of such developments as the rise of incumbency advantage and the increasing importance of money to campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s. The authors also observe that ticket splitting has declined in recent years. They link this emerging voting pattern to the sharpening policy differences between parties, illuminating the ways that ideological positions of candidates still matter in American elections.

Barry C. Burden is Associate Professor of Government at Harvard University.

David C. Kimball is Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Missouri, St. Louis.

Praise / Awards

  • ". . . the most careful and thorough analysis of split-ticket voting yet. It won't settle all of the arguments about the origins of ticket splitting and divided government, but these arguments will now be much better informed. . . . [E]ssential reading for anyone interested in understanding the major trends in U.S. electoral politics of the past several decades."
    —Gary Jacobson, University of California, San Diego
  • "When voters split their tickets or produce divided government, it is common to attribute the outcome as a strategic verdict or a demand for partisan balance. Burden and Kimball strongly challenge such claims. With a thorough and deft use of statistics, they portray ticket-splitting as a by-product of the separate circumstances that drive the outcomes of the different electoral contests. This will be the book to be reckoned with on the matter of ticket splitting."
    —Robert Erikson, Columbia University
  • ". . . the authors offset the expansive statistical analysis by delving into the historical circumstances and results of recent campaigns and elections. . . . [The book] certainly makes a scholarly and informative contribution to the understanding of the voting habits of the American electorate—and the resulting composition of American government."
    —Shant Mesrobian, NationalJournal.com, April 18, 2003
  • ". . . should be in the collection of every political scientist interested in electoral behavior and should be required reading in graduate courses on electoral behavior."
    Perspectives on Politics

Look Inside

Copyright © 2002, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 216pp.
  • 17 drawings, 36 tables.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2002
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11286-9

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  • $84.95 U.S.

  • Paper
  • 2004
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-08984-0

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  • $30.95 U.S.

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