Key – A Theory of Critical Elections

Key – The Responsible Electorate


Complete and print out this assignment and bring to class on the assigned due date.


Directions:  answer the following in the space provided.


  1. Define and explain the significance of “critical elections” according to Key.











  1. What is V. O. Key, Jr.'s "perverse and unorthodox argument" according to The Responsible Electorate?












Directions – read each statement and list of answers.  Pick the best answer and circle that choice.


1. V.O. Key, Jr. defines critical elections as:

a) elections that take place during economic depression.

b) elections occurring during crises.

c) elections reflecting the realignment of party allegiances.

d) a frequently recurring phenomenon of the political system.


2. Critical elections reflect:

a) short-term shifts in voter attitudes.

b) long-term changes in voter allegiances.

c) the decline of political parties.

d) the rise of the imperial presidency.


3. Critical elections occur:

a) every two years.

b) relatively frequently.

c) relatively infrequently.

d) every eight years.


4. V. O. Key, Jr., concludes that studies of electoral behavior:

a) present a picture of voter rationality.

b) give a vivid impression of the variety and subtlety of factors that enter into individual

    voting decisions.

c) reveal that voters do not take their economic interests into account in making their choices.

d) conclude that group identification determines electoral choice.


5. V. O. Key, Jr., argues, in discussing the responsible electorate, that theories about how voters

    behave become important because:

a) voters are aware of them and vote accordingly.

b) candidates and their advisers are aware of them, and act as if voters' behavior conforms

    to the theories.

c) they demonstrate that economic interests are always paramount in political campaigns.

d) they reveal that most electoral outcomes depend upon a single issue.


6. In discussing the responsible electorate, which of the following statements does V. O. Key, Jr.

    not make?

a) It can be a mischievous error to assume, because a candidate wins, that a majority of

    the electorate shares his views on public questions.

b) Election returns tell us precious little about why a candidate wins.

c) The voice of the people echoes candidate inputs, and even the most discriminating

    popular judgment can reflect only ambiguity, uncertainty, or even foolishness if those

    are the qualities of the input candidates make into the echo chamber.

d) The electorate is rarely moved by concerns about central and relevant questions of

    public policy and governmental performance, but rather are always persuaded by the

   facile public relations techniques of political candidates.