The coattail effect or down-ballot effect is the tendency for a popular political party leader to attract votes for other candidates of the same party in an election. For example, in the United States, the party of a victorious presidential candidate will often win many seats in Congress as well; these Members of Congress are voted into office "on the coattails" of the president.
The examples and perspective in this article deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (January 2011)
|Part of the Politics series|
This theory is prevalent at all levels of government. Popular statewide candidates for governor or senator can attract support for down ballot races of their party as well.
The "coattail effect" is not usually caused by popular candidates convincing swing voters to cast their ballots for their party, although this is not unheard of. Rather, the effect often stems from popular candidates driving voter turnout among their own party base, people who are likely to vote for down-ballot party candidates anyway.
The "coattail effect" has also been used to derogatorily describe the effect of Group Representation Constituencies (GRCs) in Singapore, where candidates for Parliament run on a party slate of 3 to 6 candidates. This allows weak candidates to get elected "riding on the coattails" of strong candidates on their slate.
Riding the coattails is a metaphor that refers to one who achieves some level of success or notability primarily through association with someone else. This can often be used as a generic phrase for anyone that hangs onto another person as he or she forges ahead, without effort from the hanger-on.