Collens, John Daniel
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Scholars of American politics have long observed that we live in an era of "candidate-centered" politics. Since around the 1960s, it seems as though candidates have relied less on parties and party organizations to conduct their campaigns and have increasingly built and utilized their own campaign organizations, turning the parties primarily for fundraising purposes. While many point to the electoral reforms of the Progressive Era (e.g., the Australian ballot and the direct primary) as being the catalyst for the decline of parties, those reforms were largely adopted by the states by the 1910s. Thus, there remains a significant lag between the adoption of the supposed cause (Progressive reforms) and the effect (candidate-centered politics). With this project, I seek to explain the rise of candidate-centered politics in U.S. House elections as a function of institutional structures, economic development, and technological innovation. Specifically, the format of ballot used in a given district is found not only to have direct effects on the degree of candidate centeredness, but the format also structures the effects of other variables. Rising incomes and the related rise in campaign spending also appear to have driven candidate centeredness, though these effects are largely limited to those districts using one particular ballot format. Finally, television is found not to be the great liberator of candidates some scholars have argued; rather, its effects are limited and indirect. I demonstrate that elections in the U.S. evolved in the context of an electoral environment that was changing on numerous fronts.