and Voting Behavior Chapter menu
have read and studied this chapter they should be able to:
Identify the reasons people
have for seeking public office.
Describe the changes that
have occurred in campaigning for public office over the last decade.
the presidential election process from primaries to the general election.
Explain the value of polls
during a campaign.
Explain the reason for
campaign financing and what legislative action has led to campaign financing
Describe the Federal
Election Campaign Act of 1972, the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974 and
the 1995 reforms.
Identify the factors
associated with nonvoting and trace historically the movement toward universal
Explain the psychological
factors that influence voting decisions.
the presidential nominating procedure from primary elections through convention
· Describe the different forms of selecting
delegates (or candidates), including the open closed and blanket primaries and
the caucus system.
· Describe the Electoral College, and proposed
reforms to it.
the influence of education and occupation on voting behavior.
Likewise the influence of socioeconomic status.
Likewise the influence of religion, race and ethnicity, and
· Define and explain the gender gap.
VII. p 188 The People Who Run for Office (including margin)
Who Is Eligible? Qualifications
for candidates vary from office to office, but few offices have restrictive
limitations. Residency requirements are common for legislative positions. Some
offices have age requirements (25 years of age for the U.S. House, 30 years of
age for the U.S. Senate, and 35 years of age for the presidency). Uniquely, the
president cannot be a naturalized citizen.
B. p. 190 Who Runs? While there are few restrictions on being a
candidate, most candidates are not demographically representative of the
general population. Traditionally, the overwhelming majority of
candidates are white, male, and relatively well off.
as Candidates. However, in recent years, more women have run for office. Women
are more likely to run for local and state offices, though the number of women
elected to Congress recently has increased significantly.
as Candidates. A very large number of elected officials at all levels are
lawyers. These professionals enjoy more flexible schedules and have careers
that can be aided by serving in elected positions.
VIII. The Twenty-First Century Campaign
The Changing Campaign.
Campaigning for public office has changed dramatically over the past forty
years. In the years before most households had televisions, campaigning was
personalized. Voters received information about a candidate from an individual,
either from the candidate or a person who was working on behalf of the
candidate or the party of the candidate. Campaigns today are often less
personal, with voters receiving information through the media, usually in the
form of advertising. In the recent decades campaigns have become less
party-centered and more candidate-centered. Increasingly candidates must form
their own political organizations and not rely on the party organization for
The Professional Campaign.
It is now commonplace for candidates even for local offices to hire consultants
for their campaigns. Political consultants devise a campaign strategy that
begins months before the general election. This strategy will include raising
contributions, seeking endorsements of organized groups, arranging for the
candidate to speak at meetings of organized groups, the formation of groups for
grass roots neighborhood support, and an extensive advertising campaign.
C. The Strategy of Winning
Candidate Visibility and
Appeal. A key issue is the candidate’s name recognition. If the candidate is
well known (most likely if the candidate is an incumbent), then the strategy
will be to remind voters of the candidate’s accomplishments, and to mobilize
them to vote. If the candidate is unknown (more likely if s/he is a challenger
or a candidate for an open seat), then the strategy will be to get the
candidate known to the voters. After this is accomplished, challengers
frequently will opt to criticize the incumbent or his or her positions. If the candidate is an independent candidate, or from a third
party, the strategy must also include a rationale for votes to abandon the
major parties and to support the third party and its candidate.
Typically, the major party candidates will label third party candidates as
unworthy of consideration.
The Use of Opinion Polls.
Candidate for president and other major offices use private polls to fine-tune
their campaign strategy.
Focus Groups. Consultants
may organize focus groups. This technique must rely on far fewer people
than a poll, but goes into far greater depth. The focus group is led in a
discussion of the candidate’s character and positions. An attempt is made to
discern underlying emotions of the participants.
IX. Financing the Campaign
change in the structure of campaigning has created a greater dependence upon
campaign contributions. As campaigns have focused on advertising through the
media to reach voters, the cost of campaigning has increased dramatically. In
2000, candidates spent more than $3 billion at all levels. Without the ability
to raise large sums of money for campaign costs, candidates have little chance
Financing. The first attempts to control campaign financing were legislated in
1925 and 1939. The 1925 corrupt practices acts were ineffective. The Hatch Act
of 1939 was not much more effective.
The Federal Election
Campaign Act. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 replaced all previous
legislation. It attempted to limit spending on advertising and required
disclosure on contributions of over $100. Unions and corporations could no longer
make direct contributions but had to set up political action committees (PACs).
The voluntary income-tax check-off for contributing to presidential campaigns
1. Further Reforms in 1974. Through the
Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, Congress:
· Created the Federal Election Commission,
charged with overseeing the enforcement of federal election campaign law.
· Provided for public funding of presidential
primaries and general elections.
· Limited presidential campaign spending for
those who accept public funding.
· Placed limitations on contributions.
Individual could contribute $1,000 per candidate per election, with a maximum
total of $25,000. PACs are limited to $5,000 per candidate per election. (These
figures did not include “soft money” contributions to the political parties for
“party building” activities.)
· Required disclosure of the source of
contributions and what the expenditures were for.
2. Buckley v. Valeo.
The 1971 act had placed
limits on how much money a candidate could spend on his or her own campaign. In
1976, the Supreme Court ruled that this provision was unconstitutional.
C. PACs and
Political Campaigns. Political Action Committees (PACs) are set up to represent
a corporation, a labor union, or an interest group. They raise money and
provide candidates with contributions. To be legitimate, a federal PAC must
obtain donations from a minimum of 50 people and contribute to at least five
candidates in a federal election. The number of PACs registered with the
Federal Election Commission has increased significantly since 1976. The amount
of money being contributed to campaign by PACs also has increased
significantly, and incumbents receive the lion’s share of contributions.
D. Campaign Financing Beyond the Limits. The problem of campaign
finance is compounded by the practices of issue advocacy advertising and soft
money contributions, which allow contributors to skirt contribution limitations
but still influence the outcome of an election.
to Political Parties. The legislation of 1971and 1974 placed no restrictions on
money given to parties for voter registration, general publicity about a
party’s positions, and the national conventions. Contributions for such purposes
were called “soft money,” as opposed to regulated “hard money.”
Expenditures. It was soon discovered that it was legal to make independent
expenditures that were not coordinated with the candidates’ campaigns.
Advocacy. A major tactic is for interest groups to buy advertising that
advocates positions on issues and either attack or praise candidates on the
basis of the issues. As long as no candidates are actually endorsed, the tactic
E The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002. The Bipartisan
Campaign Finance Reform Act was passed by Congress in 2002.
1 .Key Elements of t he New Law. The act banned soft money
contributions to the national party committees. It also placed limitations on
issue advocacy advertisements and increased the individual contribution limit
to $2000 (from $1000).
of the 2002 Act. One impact of the act will be that it will hurt the ability of
the political parties to help the candidates running on the party label. This
could lead to less cohesiveness within the parties. Also, the act may help
incumbents, who are less likely to need soft money contributions and issue
for President: The Longest Campaign
first primary election was held in Wisconsin
in 1903. It was a way to open up the process to the ordinary voter and reduce
the power of political “bosses.” Until 1968, however, only a minority of states
had binding primaries. Some primaries were “beauty contests” that did not
actually select delegates.
Reforming the Primaries.
After riots outside the 1968 Democratic Convention, the party created the
McGovern-Fraser Commission to recommend reforms. p.
the new rules, delegates had to be chosen by primaries, open caucuses, or elected
state conventions, and not by party leaders. In 1984, however, elected
officials re-won the right to attend conventions as voting superdelegates.
The Republicans also instituted most of these reforms.
Types of Primaries.
1. Closed Primary. Voters are restricted
to voting for candidates of the party in which the voter is registered.
2. Open Primary. Voters are restricted to
voting for candidates of one party. The voter selects which party primary to
participate in at the voting booth.
3. Blanket Primary. Voters may participate
in the primaries of both political parties. In 2000, the Supreme Court ruled
blanket primary unconstitutional.
4. Runoff Primary. In some states, if no candidate
receives an absolute majority in a primary, a second primary is held between
the top two contenders.
Primaries. Each state determines the date for its primary or caucus.
Rush to Be First. Because early primaries are more influential, states have
competed to schedule their primaries as early as possible. As a result, the
primary season is essentially over by March. This process is believed to help
of Early Primaries. By choosing the nominees so early, there is a long lull in
the news between the primaries and the national conventions.
2000 Democratic Primary Contest. The nominating process was over in March with
both George W. Bush and All Gore having enough convention delegate votes to win
their nominations at their conventions much later in the year.
D. p. 201
On to the National
Convention. Each state receives delegates to the
national convention for each party. The number of delegates a state receives is
roughly in proportion to the population of the state, with
extra delegates if the party’s candidate carried the state in the last
1. Seating the Delegates. A credentials
committee approves all delegates. This is usually not controversial but there
have been disputed delegations in the past.
2. Convention Activities. The highlight of the
convention is the nomination of the presidential candidate. Because the
identity of the nominee is a foregone conclusion, the TV networks have drastically
curtailed their coverage of the conventions in recent years.***SEE BOXES BELOW
E. pp. 201-203 The
Choice of Electors. The Electoral College is set forth in the Constitution
(Article II, Section 1; Amendment XII; and Amendment XXIII). Each state chooses
electors equal in number to the number of representatives and senators the
state has at the time of the election. The District of Columbia also chooses three
electors. Currently there are a total of 538 electors. For a candidate to be
elected president, he or she must win a minimum of 270 electoral votes.
Electors’ Commitment. In each state the political party selects a number of
people to serve as potential electors under the party label. When voters go to
the polls to cast a ballot for the presidential candidate they are actually
voting for a slate of electors pledged to support the presidential candidate of
the party. In all but two states, there is the winner-take-all system. That is,
if a candidate receives a plurality of the votes cast he or she wins all of the
electoral votes from the state. This is the unit rule.
of the Electoral College. As a result of the unit rule, presidential candidates
often ignore states where the result is not in doubt. Also, in four different
elections (including 2000), the presidential candidate who received a plurality
of the popular vote did not receive a majority of the electoral vote. In 2000,
George W. Bush lost the popular vote and still received a majority of the
electoral vote, though Democrats challenged the popular vote count in Florida, which
determined Bush’s Electoral College victory. In the wake of the 2000 elections,
there have been numerous arguments against the Electoral College. Regardless of
these arguments, it is likely to remain as the method for the election of the
president. To change how the president is elected, an amendment to the
Constitution would have to be proposed and ratified. Such an amendment is not
likely to pass. The unit rule, however, could be altered by national
XI. How Are Elections Conducted?
states have used a secret, or Australian ballot since
1888. But while every state uses a secret ballot, not all state’s ballots are
of the same type.
Office Block and Party
Column Ballots. The office-block ballot groups candidates for elective office
together under the title of the office. The office-block ballot discourages
straight-ticket voting. States that use the party-column ballot list candidates
in columns arranged by political parties. This type of ballot makes voting for
all candidates of one party easier. In general elections where a president or a
governor is elected, voters who are not knowledgeable about candidates for
lower offices may be swayed to support candidates of the same party as the
president or governor. This is referred to as the coattail effect.
Voting by Mail.
Increasingly, voting by mail has been used in the states. This has been done to
make it easier for people to vote. Oregon
is the only state in which all votes are cast by mail.
1.Problems with Mail Voting. Arguments against
vote by mail include the claim that early voters may not benefit from
late-breaking information and that vote by mail could result in election fraud.
2.Benefits of Mail Voting. In nearly all
elections in which vote by mail has been used, there has been an increase in
levels of participation.
Vote Fraud. This was
probably more of a problem in the historical past.
1.The Danger of Fraud. Failure to purge the
electoral rolls of voters who have died or moved opens up possibilities of
2.Mistakes by Voting Officials. On the other
hand, in some locales voting officials have purged many legitimate voters from
the rolls by mistake.
XII. pp. 205-208
Out to Vote
In the 2000 general election, 51.2
percent of the voting-age population cast ballots. Voter participation in the United States
is low compared with other countries. In congressional elections in years when
a president is not elected, the turnout rates are lower. Turnout rates are even
lower yet for most local elections.
Effect of Low Voter Turnout. Some observers believe that low turnout reflects a
dangerous disaffection with our political system. Others believe that nonvoting
means satisfaction with the status quo.
Influencing Who Votes. The decision to vote appears to be influenced by the
Age. Individuals who are older are more
likely to vote.
Education. Individuals who have more formal
schooling are more likely to vote.
Minority status. Despite a
decreasing gap, African-Americans are still less likely to vote than whites.
Turnout for Hispanics and Asian Americans is low because many are not yet
Income. Individuals who have higher incomes
are more likely to vote.
Party competition. States that have
two strong parties, as opposed to one strong and one weak party, tend to have
higher voter participation.
deleted C. Why People Do Not Vote. There are several
explanations why people do not vote. Two include “rational ignorance effect” and ”uninformative media
coverage and negative campaigning.”
Media Coverage and Negative Campaigning. This theory says that voters are not
given the kind of information that would provide an incentive for them to vote,
and many are turned off by the negativism of campaigns.
Rational Ignorance Effect. This theory purports that many individuals
rationally calculate that their vote is not important and that the effort to
seek information to cast an informed vote is not worthwhile.
for Improved Voter Turnout. More reliance on absentee ballots may not help. One
idea is to declare Election Day a national holiday.
XIII. Legal Restrictions on Voting
Requirements. By the 1850s individuals who did not own land were allowed to
participate in most states.
Extensions of the Franchise. In 1870 African-Americans were granted the right
to vote, though obstacles to their participation remained until the Voting
Rights Act of 1965. By 1920 women were granted suffrage. The last major
extension of suffrage occurred in 1971 when 18 to 20 year olds were allowed to
Is the Franchise Still Too Restrictive? The principal
argument is over ex-felons who have served their sentences but are barred from
voting, often for life. Most other democracies do not impose this rule and not
states have it. This restriction alters the shape of the electorate because
ex-felons are often members of minority groups, poor, or both.
Current Eligibility and Registration Requirements. In
order to participate in the electoral process in most states an individual must
complete a registration process. While this process varies from state to state,
it is considered important to prevent voter fraud. Some have argued that
the registration process is too complicated and therefore reduces the number of
people who vote. In 1995, Congress passed a bill that allows individuals to complete
the registration process when they apply for a driver’s license, assuming they
are at least 18 years of age. It is now considerably easier for citizens to
B. Current Eligibility and Registration Requirements. In order to
participate in the electoral process in most states an individual must complete
a registration process. While this process varies from state
to state, it is considered important to prevent voter fraud. Some have
argued that the
registration process is too complicated and therefore
reduces the number of people who vote. In 1995, Congress passed a bill that
to complete the registration process when they apply for a
driver’s license, assuming they are at least 18 years of age. It is now
for citizens to register
209 end-212 center
How Do Voters Decide?
The candidates and political parties
individuals decide to support are influenced in part by certain demographic and
Influences. Demographic traits exert a major influence over the development of
For years, higher education levels appeared to correlate with voting for
Republican candidates. Since 1992, however, voters with higher levels of
education have been voting increasingly Democratic, so that in the 2000
election, these voters were nearly evenly divided between Al Gore and George W.
Bush. The reason seems to be that professionals (such as lawyers, physicians,
professors, etc.) are trending Democratic. Therefore, persons with postgraduate
degrees (necessary to many professionals) now often
vote Democratic. Businesspeople have remained strongly Republican, however.
Businesspeople are less likely to have postgraduate degrees, which is why the
population with BAs only continues to appear to favor the Republicans.
Influence of Economic Status. Economic status and occupation appear to
influence political views. On issues of economic policy, individuals who have
less income tend to favor liberal policies, while individuals of the upper
middle class favor conservative policies. On cultural issues the reverse tends
to be true. Those with less income are more conservative and those with higher
incomes are more liberal.
Status and Voting Behavior. The Democratic Party also tends to receive support
from people employed as manual laborers and from union workers.
Influence: Denomination. Religious influence appears to have a significant
impact on the development of political opinions. For example, the Jewish
community is highly likely to vote for Democratic candidates. Irreligious
voters tend to be liberal on cultural issues, but to have mixed stands on economic
ones. A century ago, Catholics were often Democrats and Protestants Republican,
but little remains of that tradition.
Influence: Commitment. In 2000, trends showed that the level of devoutness (rather
than denomination) correlated with voting. Those who attend church regularly
are more likely to vote Republican, no matter what the denomination. This
tendency does not apply to African Americans, however, who demonstrate both
high levels of religious commitment and generally liberal politics.
Influence of Race and Ethnicity. In general, members of minority groups favor
the Democrats. African Americans do so by overwhelming margins. Hispanics are
voting Democratic by about two to one, though the Cuban American vote is
strongly Republican. Asian Americans tend to support the Democrats but often by
narrow margins. American Muslims of Middle Eastern decent gave George Bush
majority support in 2000 based on shared cultural conservatism, but went
heavily for John Kerry in 2004 on the basis of civil liberties concerns.
Gender Gap. Key term: the gender gap, or The difference between the percentage
of women who vote for a particular candidate and the percentage of men who vote
for the candidate. Since 1980 women have tended to give somewhat more support
to Democratic candidates for president and men have given somewhat more support
to the Republicans. Women have been more supportive of social spending and
extending civil rights (the value of equality). They have also been more
concerned than men about security in the wake of 9/11, however. Republicans
have benefited from this and the gender gap in the 2004 election proved to be
for the Gender Gap. Some researchers have argued that a decline in marriage
rates and an increase in the number of divorces has
depressed the income of many women, who tend to be helped economically by
marriage. And indeed, single women appear to be unusually Democratic. Other
researchers, however, note that the gender gap rises with education and that it
persists among well-educated married women.
B. Election-Specific Factors
Party Identification. This
is the strongest determinant of an individual’s vote. If an individual
identifies with a particular party there is greater the likelihood this person
will vote and support the candidates of that party.
Perception of the
Candidates. The candidate who is more successful in projecting an image that
the public wants has a better chance of winning the election. Typically, these
traits have to do with character, for example trustworthiness.
Although not as important as party identification or image, where a candidate
stands on a given issue does have an impact on voters. Economic issues are
often the most important. Some voters may cast votes based on their own
economic interests, while others will vote based on what is happening to the
nation’s economy as a whole.
***ALSO, FROM CHAPTER 7, UNDER VII, PARTY ORGANIZATION, pp. 176-177
The National Party
Organization. In theory American political parties are structured like a
pyramid, with the national party organization at the top and the local party
organization serving as the base. This theoretical structure is not realistic.
Rather, American political parties tend to operate like a confederacy, where
the state parties act autonomously and have loose connections to each other and
to the national committee.
Delegates. The national party organization receives the most publicity during
the national convention. Members of the party who have been selected to attend
the convention meet to nominate the presidential candidate, approve the party
platform, and approve the presidential candidate’s selection of a vice-presidential
candidate. This convention is held once every four years. Convention delegates
typically have political views further from the center than the supporters of
the party in the electorate.
National Committee. Elected by the national convention, this body serves as the
party’s governing body until the next convention.
a National Chairperson. This person is picked or approved by the party’s
presidential candidate. If the candidate loses, however, the
National Committee may choose a
The State Party Organization. Each state also has a party
organization. There is a state chairperson and a state central committee. Like
the national party, each state party holds a state convention, which may
endorse some candidates, depending on state law. A state party platform is
drafted which focuses on state-level issues.