Ch 10 Elections and Voting Behavior

Elections and Voting Behavior
Chapter 10
How American Elections Work
Three types of elections:
– Select party nominees (primary elections; take
place in spring)
– Select officeholders (general elections; takes
place in Nov.)
– Select options on specific policies (special
Special Elections & Ballot
– State voters approve or disapprove proposed
– Often used for constitutional amendments.
Initiative petition:
– Voters in some states propose legislation to be
voted on.
– Requires a specific number of signatures to be
– Can still be voted down by the people.
The Expansion of Suffrage
Suffrage or franchise is the right to vote
 It has been expanded throughout US history
 Today nearly all Americans over the age of
18 can vote in elections
The Expansion of Suffrage
15th Amendment (1870) granted suffrage to
African Americans (and other non-whites)
 19th Amendment (1920) granted suffrage to
 26th Amendment (1971) set the minimum
voting age at 18 (from 21)
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s
First Choice
Deciding Whether to Vote
– U.S. typically has low voter turnouts—
historically around 50% in most presidential
– Some argue it is a rational choice to not vote.
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s First
The Decline of Turnout: 1892-2004 (Figure 10.2)
Whether to Vote: Registration
49 states require registration—officially
signing up to vote.
Registration procedures differ from state to state.
 Registration requirements reduce turnout
– It requires voters to register well in advance of the
election day.
– Motor Voter Act: Requires states to permit people
to register to vote when they apply for their
driver’s license.
Other reasons cited for not
Some believe there is little ideological
difference between the two parties’
 They believe one vote among millions cast
doesn’t matter
 They are unable to leave work on a Tuesday
to vote
Some reasons people are
more likely to vote…
They perceive an ideological difference
between candidates
 They have a sense of political efficacy—
they believe their vote makes a difference
 The want to perform their civic duty in a
Predict who is likely to vote
 Race (Caucasian, Latino, African
 Age
 Education
 Religion (pick three)
 Income
 Urban or rural
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s
First Choice
Who Votes?
– Education: More education = more likely to
vote. Most important factor.
– Age: Older = more likely to vote.
– Race: Caucasian = more likely to vote. BUT,
other ethnicities are higher with comparable
– Gender: Female = more likely to vote.
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s
First Choice
Who Votes? (continued)
– Marital Status: Married = more likely to vote.
– Union Membership: Union member = more
likely to vote.
– Traits are cumulative - possessing several adds
Voter Reforms
Studies show that if turnout increases
among groups with low rates, Democrats
would probably receive more votes
 Republicans are unlikely to support reforms
that would cost them this advantage
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s First
Who Votes How?
– Upper income, evangelical Christians,
conservative religious, Cuban Americans
– African Americans, Jews, women, Latinos
How Americans Vote:
Explaining Citizens’ Decisions
Mandate Theory of Elections
– The idea that the winning candidate has a
mandate from the people to carry out his or her
platforms and politics.
– Politicians like the theory better than political
scientists do.
How Americans Vote:
Explaining Citizen's Decisions
1. Party Identification
– People generally vote for the party they agree
– They don’t have to become informed about
every issue
– This trend is declining as parties have lost some
significance in the political process (with rise of
How Americans Vote: Explaining
Citizen’s Decisions
How Americans Vote:
Explaining Citizen's Decisions
2. Candidate’s Personalities
– A candidate’s appearance may play an
unconscious role in decision-making
– People tend to value integrity, reliability, and
– Voters with college education are more likely
to base their decision on personality
How Americans Vote:
Explaining Citizen's Decisions
3. Policy Preferences
– People vote for candidates who share their policy
Must know where they and the candidates stand on
issues and see differences between candidates.
Candidates can be ambiguous on the issues.
Today candidates are forced to take a clear stand in the
party primaries.
Retrospective Voting: choosing a candidate who vows
to continue policies helpful to him/her
The Last Battle: The Electoral
Electoral College actually elects the
President - founders wanted president
chosen by the elite of the country
 States choose the electors
 Winner-Take-All system gives bigger
emphasis to more populated states and
swing states during campaign
The Last Battle: The Electoral
How it works today:
– Each state has as many votes as it does Representatives
and Senators.
– Winner of popular vote typically gets ALL the Electoral
College votes.
– Electors meet in December, votes are reported by the
vice president in January.
– If no candidate gets 270 votes (a majority), the House
of Representatives votes for president, with each state
getting ONE vote.
Electoral College:
Winner Take All
48 states are winner-take-all
 If Candidate A gets 51% and Candidate B
gets 49% of vote, Candidate A gets all
electoral votes
 In Oregon, A=7
Electoral College:
Maine and Nebraska
Separate vote by House district
 Popular vote winner in each district gets the
electoral vote
 Winner of state popular vote gets final 2
electoral votes
 (show map www.270towin.c0m)
2000 Election
Illustrates a key weakness to the Electoral
College—winner of popular vote can lose in
the E.C.
 Bush won more small states which are
overrepresented in E.C.
 Gore won more populous states—they are
underrepresented in E.C.
 Overall popular vote was close
The Last Battle: The Electoral
Should the Electoral College
be Reformed?
Think-Pair-Share Activity
 Make a list of the greatest benefits and
greatest weaknesses of the Electoral College
system (3 of each…at least)
 Should the system be reformed? How?
Defend your answer.
Evaluating the E.C.
– Doesn’t always represent the popular vote totals
– Small states overrepresented / large states underrepresented
– Faithless electors
– Deflates voter turnout
– Campaigns ignore some states
– Winner-Take-All system provides a clear victor
– Clear, Quick results
– Traditional system / known quantity
– Reduced risk of fraud
Understanding Elections and
Voting Behavior
Democracy and Elections
– Voters can steer government only when there
are noticeable policy differences between the
– Candidates who vow to continue popular
policies are more likely to win elections.
– Policies affect voting behavior through
retrospective voting.
– Bad economies make politicians nervous.
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