PS 101 Voting & Elections Summer 2008

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PS 101 Voting & Elections Summer 2008

  1. 1. Voting and Elections Dr. Christopher S. Rice University of Kentucky
  2. 2. How Two-Party Elections Can Lead to Democracy • Responsible-party government • Electoral Competition • Retrospective Voting/Electoral Reward and Punishment
  3. 3. Responsible-party Government • Based on idea of elections providing a real choice or alternative. • Assumptions: • Each of two parties is cohesive and unified • Each party takes a clear policy position that differentiates the two • Citizens accurately perceive these positions, vote on the basis of them • Winning party will follow through on their promises
  4. 4. Responsible-party Government Evaluation: • Doesn’t guarantee popular sovereignty or political equality • Doesn’t guarantee winning party will take popular policy positions – just the least unpopular. • Parties are NOT unified or cohesive, don’t always take clear stands on issues. • Voters do not vote solely on the issues • Parties don’t always keep their promises.
  5. 5. Electoral Competition Both parties should compete for votes by taking the most popular positions they can.
  6. 6. Electoral Competition Theory 68% Democrat Republican 95%
  7. 7. Electoral Competition Assumptions: • Two parties take clear, unified stands on issues. • Citizens vote based on issues. • Parties do what they promised.
  8. 8. Electoral Competition Problems: • Both parties likely to support the same policies: those most favored by voters. • Parties will tend to take policy stands near midpoint of public opinion • Doesn’t promise the parties will educate or mobilize voters
  9. 9. Electoral Competition Evaluation • Ensures democratic control only if parties are unified and take clear stands • The need to raise campaign funds could endanger concept of democracy. • For democracy to work, voters have to: • Vote only on issues + know positions taken by parties • Neither of these is likely
  10. 10. Electoral Competition Evaluation (cont’d): • EC one reason why government policy influenced by popular opinion.
  11. 11. Retrospective Voting • People vote for incumbents when times are good, against them when times are bad. • Each election, retrospective judgments about how incumbent officials have done in the past. • Parties compete by emphasizing competence, way they reflect public’s goals, NOT by taking specific policy stands.
  12. 12. Retrospective Voting • Voters don’t bother to form preferences on complex issues – just voting on past performance. • Politicians have strong incentives to solve problems people want solved.
  13. 13. Retrospective Voting Evaluation: • Simplicity – requires very little of voters. • Allows voters to focus only on most crucial issues • Relies on selfishness of politicians not altruism. Problem: may encourage politicians to produce deceptively happy results just before an election.
  14. 14. Retrospective Voting Evaluation(cont’d): • Allows time for deliberation, experimental/unpopular policies Problem: gets rid of bad political leaders only after disasters happen, no guarantee next group will do any better.
  15. 15. Models of Voting Behavior • The sociological model • The social-psychological model • The rational choice model
  16. 16. Sociological (Columbia) Model • Developed in 1940’s @ Columbia University after “consumer preference” theory went bust. • “Consumer Preference” theory was a bust because they found people made up their minds well in advance of advertising campaigns.
  17. 17. Sociological (Columbia) Model • Alternative theory: sociological variables – characteristics of groups – strongly correlated with vote choice. • SM uses group-level characteristics to explain how people vote. • Socio-economic status (SES) • Religion • Place of Residence
  18. 18. Who votes? • Higher incomes, more formal education. • Very young unlikely to vote. • Unemployed have a very low rate of turnout. • Latinos have especially low turnout rate, but it is increasing. • Crucial factor in voter turnout is level of formal education - could be a proxy for income.
  19. 19. Problems with the Sociological Model • Certain group differences still associated with voter choice, but SM can’t explain WHY. • Group behaviors have changed over time. • Model based on small-n research sample, larger sample studies had difficulty with replication.
  20. 20. Socio-Psychological (Michigan) Model Explains vote choice not as product of group characteristics but of individual attitudes.
  21. 21. Vote Choice Criteria • Issue Voting • Prospective Voting (Issues) • Retrospective Voting (Performance) • Party ID • Candidate Image
  22. 22. 5 Things to know Decision Rule Information Required Voter Rationality Elite Accountability Problems
  23. 23. Prospective Voting (Issues) Decision Rule Information Required Voter Rationality Elite Accountability Problems
  24. 24. Retrospective Voting (Performance) Decision Rule Information Required Voter Rationality Elite Accountability Problems
  25. 25. Party ID Decision Rule Information Required Voter Rationality Elite Accountability Problems
  26. 26. Candidate Image Decision Rule Information Required Voter Rationality Elite Accountability Problems
  27. 27. Rational Choice Model • The decision to show up & vote, particular choices made in polling booth = products of rational calculation. • Individuals will vote if benefits of voting outweigh costs. • Individuals will vote for candidates closest to their beliefs on issues.
  28. 28. Anthony Downs (Voter Rationality) • Information Costs – what does it cost in time, money, effort to be informed. • People will be informed if benefits outweigh the costs. • Often cost outweighs benefits. • Take into account benefits of voting • Expected benefits = benefits X probability of affecting the outcome of the vote
  29. 29. Voter Rationality • Heuristics – “cognitive shortcuts” • People don’t need a lot of information to make reasonable voting decisions. • Toilet Paper • Gladwell’s Blink • Too much information adds to costs • Heuristics like Party ID proven to allow people to make reasonable decisions.
  30. 30. Voter Rationality • Problems: • Can lead to errors: non-optimal decisions vs. “reasonable” • Information can make a difference • Rational for individuals to be uninformed, but collectively this is irrational. • Ignores costs at the collective level • More informed public = more accountable elites • Uninformed public susceptible to manipulation.
  31. 31. Rational Choice Model Problems: • Theory is a poor match with reality: Indications are that Americans are poorly informed about politics. • Michigan Model continues to provide the most accepted explanations of voting behavior.

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