I read a commentary that referred to a study done some 40 years ago by a group of political scientists. They discovered to their surprise that the most important factor determing how people vote was party affiliation. It was considered a bombshell because academics had always assumed that factors like a candidate's position on issues, his general character, his affinity with voters, etc were more important. Recent polling has confirmed that contemporary voters have the same attitudes. Party affiliation tends to trump other factors. If anything, people are becoming more likely to vote straight party lines. The red state/blue state presidential divide carries over to other races. In fact, this may be the Republicans' secret weapon in the upcoming election. Part of this may be attributable to the parties becoming more idealogical and more idealogically pure. Democrats clearly are very liberal and Republicans are more uniformly conservative. Individual issues, even hot button ones like abortion and affirmative action, have taken a back seat. Personally, I don't have a problem with this. I think if anything we could benefit from more party unity and less free lancing by congressmen. In the old days, the Speakerof the House or the Senate Majority leader could pretty much guarantee his members votes on important issues. It provided accountability. now, it is hard to blame a party's leaders or the Presdient when individual Members act like free agents and take positions more to get on the TV shows than to help their party or constituents. So my question is, what determines your vote? Will you more or less automatically pull the straight party line lever or do you vote ala carte, based on a careful weighing of positions, character, etc?