When Politicians are Judged by the Company They Keep: Political Associate Effects in Candidate Perceptions, Evaluations, and Voting

Timothy C McCall, Purdue University


Political associate effects—trait or evaluative transference from a candidate’s associates to the candidate—are assumed by many to affect voting outcomes. Previous research has found that the behaviors of a person’s associates affect impressions of an individual. The present studies manipulate the behaviors of associates of political candidates to determine if associate effects result in differences in a participant’s intention to vote for a candidate. Study 1 manipulates the nature of the relationships between a candidate and his associates (campaign staff versus supporters) and participants had negative impressions and evaluations of candidates, and were less likely to vote for them when associates engaged in negative behaviors, regardless of the type of relationship in most cases. Study 2 examines the role of party affiliation in associate effect, with the party of participants and candidates only moderating associate effects’ role in voting behavior, but not in impressions or evaluations of candidates. Finally, Study 3 manipulates candidate party affiliation as well as the way a candidate responded to associates (embracing, distancing, or no response), finding that the type of response given to associates moderated the extent to which associate effects emerged. Implications for political science and campaigns, as well as social psychology, are discussed.




Carlston, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Political science|Psychology

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