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Lecture 7

Lecture 7 - Elections and Voting

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University of Ottawa
Political Science
Joseph Roman

Feb. 25, 2014 Elections and Voting Kinds of Political Participation • Political rights traditionally enjoyed by those with special statuses, privileges, and property • Political violence was the weapon of the weak and took the form of revolts and protests • Revolutions were rare events • Social movements used by those outside of the political system who wanted to be included The Important of Political Participation • Political participation is central to democratic politics, but it must be compulsory • Regularized and organized • Enables people to express their dissatisfaction with existing conditions • Politics in capitalist democracies revolves around the allocation of resources, i.e. collective goods Reasons for Political Participation • Advent of industrial society and its associated physical and telecommunication infrastructures made it possible to overcome collective action problems • The nature of political regimes • Mobilization of like-minded voters through organizational infrastructures Choosing to Participate? • Individual traits, i.e. resources and dispositions • Time • Education -the less educated one is, the less deferent one is to authority -education leads to broadened understanding • Income -higher income gets diverted to political parties Theories of Voting: SociologicalApproaches • People vote according to their social group • Focus on broader socio-economic patterns • Sociological approaches fail to capture (1) subjectivities for not all groups necessarily vote the same way and (2) changes among voters Theories of Voting: PsychologicalApproaches • Focus on individual characteristics and how they translate into party identification • Party identification reflects how people interpret the political world around them • Childhood and adult socialization as explanatory variables for why people vote the ways that they do • Funnel of causality: the wide end are general social characteristics and the narrow end are the circumstances at the moment • Yet, it fails to account for why party identification is diminishing Theories of Voting: Rational ChoiceApproaches • Individuals vote according to their own self-interest • Voters eek out the most attractive political party, which rational choice approaches treat as products • Parties want to attract voters (as if they were consumers) in the marketplace of ideas • The median voter, i.e. the middle-of-the-road voter, is the most important voter for parties and they thus tailor their platforms to them • Yet, it cannot account for the fact that people may not always vote in their own “self- interest” Preconditions for Voting • Citizenship and juridical equality • Voting may not be enough to qualify a regime as democratic, though • Elections in non-democratic countries are not unusual • Voting is the main form of political participation Preconditions for Democratic Elections 1. Adult suffrage 2. Secret ballot – lets you vote your conscience without fear of reprisals 3. Impartial administration of voting procedures 4. Free political parties 5. Absence of gerrymandering – the manipulation of electoral boundaries in order to favor a certain political party • Argument for frequent elections • Electionitis may result in voter fatigue as the act of voting becomes less and less special Who Participates?: The Gladiator-Spectator Model • Gladiators are active in politics and comprise about 5-7% of the population • Spectators observe politics but do not get involved and comprise about 60% of the population • Apathetic are about a third of the population, tend to be unengaged or disengaged, and are excluded from voting • Apathetic do not follow politics but they may vote anyway Factors Influencing Voter Turnout 1. Laws compelling voting – mandatory turn-out 2. Registration requirements – how easy is it to vote? 3. Electoral rules 4. Concurrent and non-concurrent élections Why Do People Vote the Way They Do? • Social cleavages • The effects of social stratification, i.e. the lines along which material inequality is drawn • Social class as a salient factor • Inequality along ethnic and racial lines • Religion • Voting a certain way may not always indicate an endorsement of the status quo Electoral Systems; First-past-the-post (FPTP) • FPTP is prevalent in theAnglo-American countries • Aplurality of votes is required to win an electoral contest • Wasted votes occur in FPTP systems • Tactical/strategic voting tends to occur that leads to understated and exaggerated support Electoral Systems:Alternative Vote Ex:Australia • Rank preferences • Votes are counted and if a candidate has enough votes ranking him/her 1 and obtains a
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