Presentation on theme: "Elections and Voting Behavior Chapter 10. How American Elections Work Three types of elections: – Select party nominees (primary elections) – Select officeholders."— Presentation transcript:
How American Elections Work Three types of elections: – Select party nominees (primary elections) – Select officeholders (general elections: state and local) – Select options on specific policies [state and local elections Referendum: – State voters approve or disapprove proposed legislation. – Often used for constitutional amendments.
How American Elections Work Initiative petition: – Voters in some states propose legislation to be voted on. – Requires a specific number of signatures to be valid. – Can still be voted down by the people.
A Tale of Three Elections 1800: The First Electoral Transition of Power – No primaries, no conventions, no speeches – Newspapers were very partisan. – Campaigns focused on state legislatures - they were the ones that chose the Electoral College. – After many votes in the House, power was finally transferred to Jefferson peacefully.
A Tale of Three Elections 1896: A Bitter Fight over Economic Interests – Democrat’s main issue: Unlimited coinage of silver. – William Jennings Bryan won the Democratic Party nomination with speeches about the virtues of silver. – McKinley won the election, and the Republicans became the party of power.
A Tale of Three Elections 2004: The Ratification of a Polarizing Presidency – George W. Bush became the fourth Republican since McKinley to win a second term. – The intensity of the election was in part due to the controversy of the 2000 election. – 2004 campaign was characterized by negative campaigning. – Leadership in war on terrorism and “moral values” proved to be the key issues.
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s First Choice Deciding Whether to Vote – U.S. typically has low voter turnouts. – Some argue it is a rational choice to not vote. – Political Efficacy: The belief that one’s political participation really matters. – Civic Duty: The belief the in order to support democratic government, a citizen should always vote.
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s First Choice The Decline of Turnout: 1892-2004 (Figure 10.2)
Whether to Vote: A Citizen’s First Choice Registering To Vote – Voter Registration: A system adopted by the states that requires voters to register well in advance of the election day. – Registration procedures differ from state to state. – Motor Voter Act: Requires states to permit people to register to vote when the apply for their driver’s license.
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 education. – 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 up.
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 Party Identification – Historically, people generally voted for a party they agree with. – Rise of candidate-centered politics has changed this view. – Now many voters are individualistic. – Characteristics of each candidate have become more important than party.
How Americans Vote: Explaining Citizen’s Decisions
How Americans Vote: Explaining Citizen's Decisions Candidate Evaluations: How Americans See the Candidates – Candidates want a good visual image. – Most important dimensions are integrity, reliability, and competence. – Personality still plays a role.
Presidential Positions on ‘The Issues’ During Campaigning Move to “The Middle” Campaigns generally move toward the middle of the political spectrum – Moderate, mainstream positions usually garner most votes Bill Clinton – Became more moderate on economic and social policy as the campaign began and progressed – Retreated from unconditional support for minority interests George W. Bush? – Re-election campaign produced moderate positions on many issues, including economics – Unusual focus on right-wing moral issues to appeal to evangelical christians
How Americans Vote: Explaining Citizen's Decisions Policy Voting – Basing your vote choice on issue preferences. – Must know where they and the candidates stand on issues and see differences between candidates. – Candidates can be ambiguous on the issues. – The press tends to focus on the “horse race” not the issues. – Today candidates are forced to take a clear stand in the party primaries.
The Last Battle: The Electoral College Electoral College actually elects the President - founders wanted him chosen by the elite of the country States choose the electors Winner-Take-All system gives bigger emphasis to more populated states
The Last Battle: The Electoral College 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.
The Last Battle: The Electoral College Electoral College necessitates STRATEGY “Safe States” – ‘maintenance’ campaigning – If large number of electoral votes, more attention “Possible States” (2004 “Battleground”/”Swing”) – Significant amount of time and money in campaigning – If large number of electoral votes, major concentration will be placed on this state “Impossible States” – Little or no campaigning – California for Bush, Texas for Kerry
Understanding Elections and Voting Behavior Democracy and Elections – Voters can steer government only when there are noticeable policy differences between the candidates. – 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.
Understanding Elections and Voting Behavior Elections and the Scope of Government – Elections generally support government policies and power. – Voters feel they are sending a message to government to accomplish something. – Thus, the government expands to fill the needs of the voters.
Congressional Election Campaigns Less high profile than Presidential Produce less turnout in ‘off-presidential year’ Every two (2) years Costly! – 2004: between 2 and 3 billion dollars estimated Incumbency Advantage – Over 90% are reelected – 1990: 391/406 in the House, 31/32 in the Senate
Rules Members of the House of Representatives are elected by popular vote within an ‘election district’ – Single-member district – Gerrymandering and Malapportionment Members of the Senate are elected by popular vote within each state – Plurality vote – Had been appointed by state legislatures from 1789- 1913 according to the U.S. Constitution
Why do the Incumbents Win So Much? Familiarity with methods that impress constituents – Allocate personal staff time to meet the needs of the constituency Personal assistance to groups, special interests – Use of written and oral publicity about actions in Congress – Benefits of congressional seniority for home districts – Tom Daschle – Potential for better committee assignments to enhance funding for pet projects Transportation Defense contracts – Name-recognition – Knowledge of potential sources for fund-raising – Party Identification (House)
There are Problems for Incumbents Though Increasingly, constituencies have varied interests which are hard to meet Accountability to these varied constituencies puts tensions on the candidate Scandals from previous term Redistricting – Texas 2003 example Unpopularity of Presidential candidate of same party Increasing importance of mid-term elections as referendum on the performance of the President Poor economic conditions can lead to Congressional shake-up