Political Participation in the United States Chapter 6: Wilson AP Government and Politics
Voter Participation in the US Why is it ironic that the US has such relatively low voter participation, or political participation, compared to other nations?
Voting and Federalism • The Constitution: • Fed not responsible for elections…who is? • Just establish date and ensure House members popularly elected • But this leaves a lot open; statewide, staggered terms, etc. • States could determine who was eligible to vote • What problem arose under this system?
Amendments “Nationalizing” the Right to Vote • The 15th - Guaranteed the right to vote to “all persons” • Supreme Court – “Vote could be denied, but denial can’t be based on race”… • What did some state governments do in order to disenfranchise African-Americans after its passage? • Not until passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 does African-American participation in elections become widespread and fair • The 19th - Gave all women the right to vote • Prior to this, some states had extended the right to vote to women. • Did dramatic change result from the influx of women voters into the electorate? • Why not? • The 26th - Extended the right to vote to 18 year-olds. • Was their impact dramatic?
Voter Turnout • Reasons for decline after 1890 • Decline in interest, weakening parties • Voter fraud before Australian ballot • How do voter registration procedures impact turnout? • Measuring voter turnout • VAP – all persons old enough • VEP – of those persons, only those actually eligible
Reasons for higher voter turnout (for a midterm) in 2010 • “It’s the economy, stupid.” • Voters concern with issues, including jobs and debt
Forms of Participation • Voting most common, giving money and member of political organization least common • Some people report falsely how much they vote; if they do this, then it is likely that they misreport other forms of participation • Studies show that politics is not a topic that most people think about on a daily basis. • Verba and Nie’s forms of participation • Inactive – little education or income, relatively young, most are AA (22%) • Activists– highly educated, high income, middle aged not young or old; (11%) • VotingSpecialists – not much schooling or income and be above average age • Campaigners – what distinguishes them for VS’s is their interest in the conflicts of politics, and they usually clearly identify with a party. • Communalists -belive more in the community activities of a non=partisan nature • Parochialparticipants – don’t vote or join, but contact for personal problems
What personal characteristics make a person more likely to participate? • Factors – • education • churchgoing • age • income • sex • race
Reasons for Low Voter Turnout? • Increasing # of youth and minorities • Political parties are not as effective at mobilizing voters • The remaining difficulties in registering – • Same day registration states and automatic registration (Canada) • Not voting doesn’t cost anything; • But what is the “cost” of rewarding voters? • People feel that elections don’t matter… • 2008? Or 2010?
Voter Perspective 1 John is 46 year-old white male. He is an electrician who makes $85,000 a year, and has been a member of the Electrical Workers Union for approximately 20 years. He is very religious, attending a Lutheran church each week. He has been divorced for about 5 years, and has 3 children. He gets most of his news from newspapers and occasionally from NBC or CNN.
Voter Perspective 2 Maria is a Latino mother of 2 who just turned 35. She is a lawyer for a large law firm, and makes about $120,000 per year. She is a member of the Pennsylvania Bar Association, a devout Catholic, and has been married for 5 years. She uses the Internet for her news, pays close attention to several blogs, and occasionally responds herself to the postings she reads.
Voter Perspective 3 Eric is a black male, and a recent college graduate from Penn State in the area of business administration. He is 24, single, and just moved to New York City. He is not religious, and spends a good deal of his free time following sports and spending time out and about in New York City.
Voter Perspective 4 Sophia is a 73 year-old white female, and a grandmother of 6. She is retired from a lifetime as a public school teacher, and receives both a pension and social security. She and her husband live in a retirement community in Vermont, and attend their Methodist church every Sunday. She listens to NPR and watches PBS in order to stay current with the news.