This research study is sensitive to the supportive (or unsupportive) role played by both female and male spouses in the electoral process. As alluded to in the project title, the spouse frequently is credited as being the better part, or the more valuable half of a partnership in everyday life. However, as a partner within the context of a political life, the spouse often is undervalued as a political asset, operative, or “broker” of votes in the electoral arena by those who organize campaigns, as well as by those who observe them. The study evaluates the participatory role and participatory consequence of the spouse—labeled the “spousal effect”—in local-, state- and national-level election campaigns in Japan. The study credits the spouse as a critical player in shaping election campaigns, and thus electoral outcomes, much in a manner similar to local politicians, campaign managers and association leaders.
The research study establishes a number of spousal support “types” or categories via interview with female and male spouses and their corresponding legislative seat-seeking counterpart, participant observation and media analyses of the actions of spouses. Moreover, the research exposes the complexity of the spouse’s participation in and influence on election campaigns based on geographic region, generation/age, sex, political party membership, voter expectations, tenure in office and the level of elected office. Individual participatory motivations aside, these variables constrain and enable spousal participation. In other words, even though the spouse may be identified as a valuable member of the campaign team, he/she often has limited independent control over the design of the role and scope of participation in the election campaign.
Dyron Dabney is Assistant Professor in the Department of Political Science at Albion College, Albion, Michigan. His research include campaigns and elections, political parties, political participation and elite politics. He is currently a Visiting Professor at Waseda University, Tokyo.