POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy

Coattail Effect

The coattail effect describes the phenomenon of a popular presidential candidate or political party leader being able to attract votes for other candidates in his or her party. This often occurs in U.S. presidential elections where the winning candidate’s party often also wins numerous seats in Congress. Thus, members are voted into Congress ‘on the coattails’ of the President.  

The coattail effect can also be negative. In this case, an unpopular or controversial party leader or presidential candidate causes his or her party to suffer electoral losses elsewhere, such as in Congress or Parliament. 

See also: Presidential Election, US Congress, US Senate, House of Representative

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