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Ch. 10 Voter Behavior and Elections

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Patrick Keating

on 20 October 2015

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Transcript of Ch. 10 Voter Behavior and Elections

Chapter 10 --- Voter Behavior and Elections
How American Elections Work
Functions of Elections:
Unique 'American' features
Legitimizes actions of elected officials
Socialize and institutionalize political activity, allows for peaceful challenge of political participation
Legitimacy -- people within a nation accept procedures in which transfers of power are made
Three kinds of elections in USA
Those that select party nominees (primaries)
Those which select officeholders among the nominees (general election)
Those in which voters engage in making or ratifying legislation (referendum)
Referendum -- a form of direct legislation in which voters are given the chance to approve or disapprove some legislative acts (i.e. school bonds) or constitutional amendment
No primaries, no conventions, etc.
Federalists nominated Adams; Democratic-Republicans nominated Jefferson
No campaigning -- relied on state and local organizations promote their cause
1800: The First Electoral Transition of Power
Most newspapers were openly partisan
Election thrown into the House of Representatives between Burr and Jefferson
Federalist controlled House took 36 ballots before electing Thomas Jefferson
Significance -- revealed some flaws in the Constitution:
Voting for two names for President led to the tie
To fix the flaw -- passage of the 12th Amendment: requires separate ballots for President and VP
Marked the first peaceful transition of power between parties via the electoral process in the history of the world
Argued what our monetary system should be based upon.
Bryan - silver; McKinley - gold
Election of 1896: Gold v. Silver
National conventions had become well established
Election fought primarily over economics
McKinley ran a front porch campaign from his home in Ohio
Managed to label the Democrats as the party of the depression
In God We Trust, In Bryan We Bust
Bryan -- broke with tradition
Traveled through 26 states; 18,000
Republicans won overwhelmingly in Northeast, Midwest
Became firmly entrenched as the nation's majority party over the next several decades
2004: Ratification of a Polarizing President
W. became the FOURTH Republican candidate since McKinley to win a second term
Because Bush's lead over Gore in the initial count was less than .01%, Florida law mandated a recount
Came down to 537 votes -- election hinged on whether or not the ballots with under votes would have to be applied to all counties

Controversy of 2004 was set up by what happened in the election of 2000
Bush v. Gore (2000) -- first time the Supreme Court played a pivotal role in a presidential election
Bush v. Gore (2000) overruled Florida Supreme Court
US SC ultimately determined that W. would be the next president
Whether to Vote: A Citizen's First Choice
Two centuries of voting -- suffrage greatly expanded
Suffrage -- the right to vote
Has expanded to women, African Americans, younger generations
As right to vote has increased, proportionately fewer of eligible voters have chosen to vote
Reasons why many vote
Political efficacy -- belief that ordinary people can influence government
Sense of civic duty -- people who vote simply to support our republican form of government
Believe that it is their responsibility as citizens
Back to 2004----
John Kerry (D-MA) v. George W. Bush (R-TX)
Many voters felt that moral values was most important to them
Also big issues -- Iraq, the economy, health care
Voter turnout
80% in 1896; 56% in 2008
What do you make of these numbers?
Examine the following graph and make note of any trends that you observe...
Registering to Vote
Procedures differ from state to state
Adopted at beginning of 20th century to prevent corruption
Great Plains/Northeast by far the easiest
No registration at all in ND
Four states permit registration on election day
States in the south still most difficult to register in
These states also record the lowest voter turnout rates
1993 Motor Vehicle Act --- went into affect in 1995
Act requires states to permit people to register to vote when they apply for driver's license
Makes voter registration much easier by allowing voters to simply check a box to register
Education -- higher education, higher rate of voting
Able to discern differences between candidates
Age -- older people more likely than younger
Race -- whites vote the most
When all things equal (education, income) minorities have higher voter turnout
Mandate Theory of Elections
Party Identification
Party affiliation - singled out as best predictor in 1950s
Emergence of TV, candidate centered politics changed this
Less common today, particularly in House, where incumbency is the best predictor
Candidate Evaluations
Three most important elements of candidate image are:
In 2000, W. scored higher than Gore in dimension of integrity
Must also be dependable, decisive
Seen as being reliable -- Kerry saw his reliability rating fall follwing the Bush campaign's flip flopping ads
Incumbents -- score higher on competence
Policy Voting
Voters must...
Have a clear view of their own policy positions
Know where the candidates stand on policy issues
See a difference between candidates on these issues
Problem of candidates -- deliberately ambiguous
Speak in generalities; attack the other's position without taking a firm stand on their own
W. -- clear, strong positions, which increased voter polarization
The Last Battle: The Electoral College
Founders wanted the president to be selected by the nation's elite, and not by the people
Electoral votes = number of US Senators and representatives
Ohio -- 16 reps + 2 Senators
Winner take all system -- except in Maine and Nebraska
Meet in December, mail votes to the President of the Senate (VP)
Counted when new congressional session opens in January
Elections accomplish two tasks
They select the policy makers
They are supposed to help shape public policy
Retrospective Voting
Voters essentially ask the question 'what have you done for me lately
Public Policy -- Especially the perception of economic policy impacts -- can affect elections
Voters unhappy with the economy tend to blame the incumbent

"Democratic elections help to persuade citizens that expansion of the state's powers represents an increase in the state's capacity to serve them."
American voters rarely question the fairness of elections/results --- allows officeholders to govern with a legitimacy they can take for granted
Initiative Petition -- a process permitted in some states in which voters may put proposed changes in the state constitution to vote if they get enough votes on petitions
Despite close victory, Bush governed boldly
Many of his policies -- polarized the country; with or against him type attitude
Who Votes and who stays home?
Characteristics of Voters and Non Voters
How Americans Vote: Explaining Citizens' Decisions
Gender -- women slightly higher than men
Marital status -- married more likely to vote than non-married
Government employment -- higher rates of voting
Idea that the winning candidate has a mandate from the people to carry out their platforms and politics
Favored by politicians, political scientists discount the theory
Political scientists focus on three major elements:
Voters' party identification
Voters' evaluation of candidates
Match between voters' policy positions and those of the candidates (known as policy voting)
Does image matter?
Study by Miller, Wattenberg...
College educated voters more likely to view candidates in terms of their personal attributes
Able to derive issue inferences from their personalities
Occurs when people base their choices in an election on their own issue preferences
Electoral vote, not the popular vote, determines the winner of presidential elections
A unique American institution
Created by the Constitution
Providing selection of the president by electors chosen by the states' parties
Usually reflects a popular majority, Gives clout to big states
If election is thrown into the House, each state delegation only has one vote -- makes everyone equal
California -- 1 vote; Wyoming -- 1 vote
Important for two reasons
Introduces bias -- less populated states are overrepresented
Winner-take-all candidates will focus on winning states where there is a close contest
Focus on Ohio rather than Texas
Understanding Elections and Voting Behavior
Biggest issue for many presidents: the economy
Can make or break a presidency
Hoover -- Stock Market Crash of 1929
Reagan and Clinton
Bush - 2007-08
When people have the power to give electoral rewards and punishment - see government as their servant, not their master
Citizens in a democracy attempt to benefit from government
As democracy has spread = scope of government has grown
Full transcript