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Name Recognition Can Have Impact On Elections


With the General Election less than one week away, many voters have made their electoral decisions - perhaps based on just the candidate's’ name.

Until the second week of July, Democrat Baron Hill was competing against Republican Todd Young for for the seat of retiring Indiana Senator Dan Coats.

On July 11, Hill dropped out, and former Indiana governor and senator Evan Bayh took his place. Bayh represented Indiana in the U.S. Senate for 12 years, and retired in 2010.

Although Hill had not been performing well in the polls, Andy Downs from the Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics says Bayh had a major advantage.

“Obviously when you say a name and people recognize it, they have some sense of who that individual is," said Downs. "They may not be able to tell you why they like or dislike that individual, but they already have that knowledge base or an opinion.”

With Bayh in the race, Indiana’s vacant senate seat suddenly became a toss-up. Although he was a late entry into the race, Downs says Bayh has the incumbency advantage.

Bayh’s candidacy was a very strategic move made by state and national party leaders. However, in Fort Wayne, name recognition has actually created some problems for the Allen County Democratic Party.

This year, Fort Wayne voters will also see two candidates on their ballots whose names might look familiar -- Democrats Tommy Schrader and David Roach -- have run for several offices over the years, despite seeing little success or support from the local party.

However, Downs says we could see their vote totals go up in 2016 because of the familiarity of their names.

“If voters haven’t done all the research that we hope they will do before they go in, they’ll often default and go with the person whose name they recognize,” he said.

Party chairman Jack Morris says these candidates decide to put themselves on the Democratic ballot because there’s more competition among Republican candidates.

“Everybody wants somebody else to arrange and recruit candidates," said Morris. "If there’s somebody out there you don’t think ought to be running, maybe you’re the one that ought to fill that gap. You get engaged, you get involved, we get a better process.”

Morris also says turning out to vote for candidates and supporting them during primary and general elections is an effective way to bring new names to the ballot.

Zach joined 89.1 WBOI as a reporter and local host for All Things Considered. He currently hosts Morning Edition.
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