Job Market Paper: Is All Politics Presidential? Decomposing partisan patterns in U.S. election outcomes across offices, 1972-2020

Recent research contends state and local elections are driven by presidential contests, presenting correlations between presidential and down-ballot voting as evidence. However, this top-down mechanism of “nationalized” election results, which I call “presidentialization”, is indistinguishable from other mechanisms, such as increasing partisan strength, using such measurement strategies. I propose an alternative theoretical framework in which I decompose election results into candidate specific, partisan, and idiosyncratic components, allowing me to compare mechanisms of nationalization. I apply this framework to presidential, senate, governor, and other statewide elections from 1972-2020, 476 statewide elections across 26 offices from 2016-2020, and all partisan down-ballot races in Maricopa County, Arizona from 2008-2020. While it is true that election results are increasingly similar, they appear connected more by partisanship than presidential voting. Presidential contests are among the most idiosyncratic; lower-salience elections have little variance. While it is reassuring elections for lower office do not appear determined by presidential candidates, the lack of alternative information to partisanship paints a troubling representational picture down-ballot.


  1. Holliday, Derek, Yphtach Lelkes, and Sean J. Westwood. Provisionally Accepted. “Affective Polarization is Uniformly Distributed Across American States.” PNAS Nexus.

  2. Holliday, Derek, Shanto Iyengar, Yphtach Lelkes, and Sean J. Westwood. 2024. “Uncommon and nonpartisan: Antidemocratic attitudes in the American public.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 121 (13).

  3. Hamel, Brian and Derek Holliday. 2024 “Unequal Responsiveness in City Service Delivery: Evidence from 42 Million 311 Calls.” Quarterly Journal of Political Science 19 (3): 243-274.

  4. Guerin, Rebecca J., Arash Naeim, Ryan Baxter-King, Andrea H. Okun, Derek Holliday, and Lynn Vavreck. 2022. “Parental intentions to vaccinate children against COVID-19: Findings from a U.S. National Survey.” Vaccine 41 (1): 101-108.

  5. Naeim, Arash, Rebecca Guerin, Ryan Baxter-King, Andrea Okun, Neil Wenger, Karen Sepucha, Annette Stanton, Aaron Rudkin, Derek Holliday, Alexander Rossell Hayes, and Lynn Vavreck. 2022. “Strategies to increase the intention to get vaccinated against COVID-19: Findings from a nationally representative survey of US adults, October 2020 to October 2021.” Vaccine 40 (52): 7571-7578.

Under Review

  1. Income, Education, and Policy Priorities (Revise and Resubmit at Political Science Research and Methods, with Chris Tausanovitch)

  2. Who are the Election Skeptics? Evidence from the 2022 Midterm Elections (Revise and Resubmit at Election Law Journal, with Justin Grimmer, Yphtach Lelkes, and Sean J. Westwood)

  3. Setting Evidentiary Standards for Solutions to Partisan Animosity: The Case of Bridging Interventions (with Shanto Iyengar, Yphtach Lelkes, and Sean J. Westwood)

  4. D.C. On My Mind: National Considerations in State and Local Political Decisions (with Aaron Rudkin)

    • APSA State Politics and Policy Section Best Paper Award (2022)
    • UCLA Swarr Prize for Best Unpublished Paper
    • Rapoport Doctoral Dissertation Grant
  5. Nationalized Elections, Localized Campaigns? A Supervised Machine Learning Approach to Measuring Nationalized Political Rhetoric

Projects in Progress

  1. Angry and Divided: The Geography of Partisan Animosity in America (Book manuscript, with Shanto Iyengar, Yphtach Lelkes, and Sean J. Westwood)

  2. Endorsement Effects for COVID-19 Policy Support (with Ryan Baxter-King)

  3. All Party in the USA? Partisan Forces in Local and Nonpartisan Contests

Other Writing

  1. Holliday, Derek, Tyler Reny, Alex Rossell Hayes, Aaron Rudkin, Chris Tausanovitch, and Lynn Vavreck. 2021. “Democracy Fund + UCLA Nationscape Methodology and Representativeness Assessment.”