Chapter 10: Objectives/Notes

Explain how elections provide regular access to political power and how the process is related to the level of political legitimacy.
1. Elections socialize and institutionalize political activity, making it possible for most political participation to be peacefully channeled through the electoral process. Because elections provide regular access to political power, leaders can be replaced without being overthrown.
2.American voters rarely question the
fairness of election results, allowing officeholders to govern with a legitimacy they can take for granted.
Describe procedures that permit voters to enact legislation directly, such as the initiative petition and referendum.
Initiative Petition: enables voters in twenty-three states to place proposed legislation on the ballot if they gather the required number of signatures on a petition (usually a number equaling 10 percent of the voters in the previous election).
Referendum: a form of direct legislation in which voters are given the chance to approve or disapprove some legislative act (such as school bonds) or constitutional amendment.
Trace the historical evolution of the American style of campaigning from 1800 to 2000.
1800: Candidates nominated by party members in Congress; candidates did not campaign in person; state and local parties promoted their candidate; focused on state legislaturres who chose state electors.
1896: National nominating conventions were well established; candidates actively campaigned in person.
Today: Campaigns are high-tech, slick affairs.
Identify the characteristics of voters and nonvoters.
Factors making people more likely to vote:
Income: Higher socio-economic status
Occupation: White collar (professionals) and blue collar union members
Education: Higher educated
Age : Older
Race: White
Gender: Women are slightly more likely
Religion: Chrisitians
Marital Status: Married
Mobility: Same address for a while
Region: Northerners
Gov’t Employees: Very active voters
Explore the reasons why voter turnout has actually declined as the right to vote was extended to new groups.
Due to a drop in American’s social and political connectedness. A younger, single and less church-going electorate has resulted in voters who are less socially tied to their political communities. Also, due to declines in partisanship, political interest and belief in gov’t responsiveness.
Ascertain the role that voter registration procedures and requirements have played in structuring voter turnout.
Registration procedures differ greatly from one state to another.
1. States in the upper Great Plains and the Northwest make it easiest to register; there is no registration at all in North Dakota; and four states permit registration on election day.
2. States in the South still face the most difficult forms of
registration (and they also record lower voter turnout rates).
3.This changed somewhat when the 1993 Motor Voter Act went into effect in 1996. The act requires states to permit people to register to vote at the same time citizens apply for driver’s licenses. It makes voter registration much easier by allowing eligible voters to simply check a box on their driver’s license application or renewal form.
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Compare voter turnout in the United States with that of other democracies.
US turnout is comparatively low to other modern industrialized democracies.
1. Stricter voter registration
2. More elections and offices to elect
3. Candidates are more centrist; no serious far left-wing socialists/communists
Determine how policy differences and civic duty affect a person’s decision to vote or not to vote.
1. People who see policy differences between the parties are more likely to join the ranks of voters.
2. Those who vote out of a sense of civic duty are people who vote simply to support democratic government (even if they are indifferent about the outcome).
Explain why party identification is crucial for many voters and review the decline of party affiliation since the 1950s.
1. Because of the importance of party identification in deciding how to vote, the parties tended to rely on groups that lean heavily in their favor to form their basic coalition.
2. With the emergence of television and candidate-centered politics, the hold of the party on the voter eroded substantially during the 1960s and 1970s, and then stabilized at a new and lower level during the 1980s.
3. Scholars singled out party affiliation as the single best predictor of a voter’s decision in the 1950s. Voting along party lines is less common today, particularly in elections for the House of Representatives, where incumbency is now of paramount importance.
Identify the conditions that must be present for true policy voting to occur.
True policy voting can take place only when several conditions are met:
1. Voters must have a clear view of their own policy positions.
2. Voters must know where the candidates stand on policy issues.
3. Voters must see a difference between candidates on these issues.
4. Voters must actually cast a vote for the candidate whose policy positions coincide with their own.
Outline the procedures of the electoral college and compare the present system with the process that was envisioned by the framers of the Constitution.
1. Each state has as many electoral votes as it has U.S. senators and representatives. Today, state parties nominate slates of electors.
2. All states except Maine and Nebraska have a winner-take-all system in which electors vote as a bloc for the candidate who received the most popular votes in the states.
3. Electors meet in their respective states in December and mail their votes to the president of the Senate (vice president of the U.S.). The vote is counted when the new congressional session opens in January, and the result is reported by the president of the Senate.
4. If no candidate receives an electoral college majority, the election is thrown into the House of Representatives, which must choose from among the top three electoral vote winners. The unit rule is used,which means that each state delegation has one vote (not each member).
Understand the tasks that elections accomplish, according to democratic theory.
According to democratic theory, elections accomplish two tasks:
1. They select the policymakers.
2. They are supposed to help shape public policy.
Establish how elections may affect public policy and how public policy may affect elections.
1. The greater the policy differences between the candidates, the more likely it is that voters will be able to influence government policies by their choices.
2. As long as politicians can take refuge in ambiguity, the possibility of democratic control of policy is lessened.
3. When individual candidates offer a clear choice, voters are more able to guide the government’s policy direction.
4. Most policies have consequences for the well-being of certain groups or for society as a whole. According to the theory of retrospective voting, voters essentially ask the question, “What have you done for me lately?”
5. Public policy—especially the perception of economic policy impacts—can affect elections. In presidential elections, people who are unhappy with the state of the economy tend to blame the incumbent.
Analyze how elections influence the scope of government in a democracy.
1. While the threat of election defeat constrains policymakers, it also helps to increase generalized support for government and its powers. Elections legitimize the power of the state, thereby making it easier to expand the scope of the government.
2. When people have the power to dole out electoral reward and punishment, they are more likely to see government as their servant instead of their master. As a result, citizens in a democracy often seek to benefit from government (rather than to be protected from it). As democracy has spread, government has come to do more and more, and its scope has grown.