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Chapter 8. Political Participation and Voting. Forms of Political Participation. Forms of Political Participation. Forms of Political Participation. Traditional political participation: various activities designed to influence government.

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Chapter 8

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Chapter 8

Political Participation

and Voting

forms of political participation2
Forms of Political Participation

Traditional political participation: various activities designed to influence government.

  • Voting, protest, campaign contributions, contact elected officials (many more)

Online participation: interactive political engagement facilitated by vast opportunities to connect to causes, people, events, and information online.

forms of political participation3
Forms of Political Participation

Online participation linkage to offline activity

  • Information
  • Accidental mobilization
  • Format advantages
    • Images, interaction, and unlimited space
  • Diversity of sources and voices
  • Lowers entry barriers
  • Citizen journalism: blogs, video, social media
forms of political participation4
Forms of Political Participation

Examples scale, potential online participation

  • Obama 2008 online campaign model
    • 3 million small contributions online (unprecedented)
    • 1st ever on FB, Twitter, “Contribute Now” button
    • Events and activities organized online
  • SOPA and PIPA protests
    • Largest websites (Wiki, FB, Google, et al) oppose
    • Website blackouts or limited services mobilized millions to call Congress in opposition – it worked.
  • Digital divide (online inequalities) remain, though

Suffrage extended to different groups at different points in American history. Initially only wealthy, white, male, >21 years old

  • Wealth limitation eliminated early 1800s
  • 15th Amendment enfranchises black men (1870)
  • 19th Amendment enfranchises women (1920)
  • 24th Amendment ends poll taxes (1964)
  • 26th Amendment lowers age to 18 (1971)
  • Right to vote: all American citizens >18 yrs. old
    • 10 states (as of 2012) lifetime ban convicted felons
  • Turnout relatively low today
    • Other democracies and points in American history
    • 60 percent national average presidential elections
    • 33 percent national average off-year national races
      • Significant state and regional differences

Voter turnout in democratic nations 1945–2008


Voter turnout by race and ethnicity 1976–2008


Voter turnout by educational attainment 1976–2008


Voter turnout by age cohort 1976–2008


Voter turnout by employment status 1976–2008


Who Made Up the Electorate in 2012?





Asian 3%

Other 2%



Black 13%


Hispanic 10%




SOURCE: Data are based on exit polls available at (accessed 11/12/12).


Who Made Up the Electorate in 2012?

20%< $30,000



No college degree






59%> $50,000







SOURCE: Data are based on exit polls available at (accessed 11/12/12).


Why do people vote?

  • Individual preferences and traits
    • Partisanship, ideology, religion, sex, income, etc.
  • Political environment
    • Campaigns, issues, mobilization, party competition
  • State policies
    • Registration deadlines and methods, identification, ballot types (paper, mail only, etc.)
  • Political mobilization
    • Process by which large numbers of people are organized for a political activity
    • Online and/or in-person mobilization activities include ads, calls, e-mails, campaign events, fundraising, and others.
  • Not all people are mobilized equally.
    • Turnout disparities reflect mobilization differences.
    • Other factors, but mobilization an important one

Individual traits and preferences

  • Demographic indicators
    • Education, income, sex, race/ethnicity, age
    • Education: highest impact because influences so many other factors correlated with voter turnout information, efficacy, and, of course, income
  • Preferences and attitudes
    • Party attachment, ideology, issue positions
      • Makes sense: people with well-formed opinions vote

Political environment

  • Context can attract voters to the polls
    • Candidates, pressing issues
    • Mobilization strategies and investment
    • Party competition (or lack thereof)
      • Consistently competitive or noncompetitive
        • Voters, candidates, parties and contributors ALL take party competition into account.

State policies

  • All states implement voting and election laws differently. Some make it easier than others.
    • Registration deadlines prior to election day
    • Length of residency at current address
    • Identification requirements
    • Early and absentee voting rules
    • Variable vote locations
    • Ballot method: mail only, paper ballot, kiosk, etc.
american voters
American Voters

Why is turnout different across groups?

Turnout =

state rules + political context + individual traits

  • Variation in all three variables explains voter turnout trends.
american voters1
American Voters

Latinos: largest minority in United States (16 percent as of 2010)

  • Established political ties with both parties
    • Cuban Americans with GOP; Puerto Rican and Mexican American with Democrats
  • Population geographic concentrations
    • Parties competitive: FL, NV, NM, CO
    • Parties noncompetitive states: TX, CA, NY, CT
  • Low turnout factors: income, education, state laws, party competition, low mobilization
american voters2
American Voters

African Americans: (13 percent of U.S. as of 2010)

  • Strong ties to Democratic Party since 1960s
    • Voting rights, desegregation, civil rights agenda
  • Turnout in context
    • Laws kept black turnout low for over a century.
    • Voting Rights Act (1965), turnout rates soar.
    • Today, turnout more than Latinos, less than whites
    • Low turnout factors: income, education, state laws, low mobilization by both parties
american voters3
American Voters

Asian Americans: (5 percent of U.S. as of 2010)

  • Party ties not strong, lean Democrat
  • Geographic concentration:
    • Hawaii, California, Texas, New York, New Jersey
  • Turnout in context
    • Lowest turnout rate of groups we can estimate
    • Factors: in-group diversity and geographic diffusion make group cohesiveness difficult, low mobilization, noncompetitive states
gender and participation1
Gender and Participation

Percent Women in Elected Office

american voters4
American Voters

Gender and turnout differences

  • Since 1984, women’s turnout higher than men
  • Men vote GOP at a higher rate.
  • Women vote Democrat at a higher rate.
  • Policy priorities and issue positions often differ.
  • Parties make direct mobilization appeals to women voters; indirect to men.
    • Ads, messaging, agenda issues
american voters5
American Voters

Age and turnout differences

  • Long-standing trend: older voters highest turnout rate; youngest voters, lowest
    • People become voters over their lifetime.
      • Nonvoters at 20, probably voting by 65
    • Partisanship and issue positions stronger with age
    • Familiarity with registration process differs
    • Low turnout factors: information, experience, residential mobility, efficacy, income
american voters6
American Voters

Religiosity and Turnout Differences

  • People who attend religious services turn out at higher rates than those who do not.
    • Makes sense: people participating in one community activity, likely take part in another.
    • Religious institutions’ mobilization around issues and ideology; not only to benefit of GOP.
    • Many candidates make direct overtures to voters targeting their religious identity.
public opinion poll
Public Opinion Poll

Several countries (that are democracies) have compulsory voting policies that require all citizens to vote, and fine those who do not. Should the United States adopt such a policy to increase voter participation in American elections?

  • Yes
  • No
public opinion poll1
Public Opinion Poll

Which form of (individual) political participation do you think has the most influence on elected officials and candidates?

  • Voting
  • Campaign contributions
  • Contacting them to express concerns (e-mail, calls, visits to their offices, etc.)
  • Some other activity
public opinion poll2
Public Opinion Poll

Do you think laws, policies, and the way government operates in general would be different if everyone eligible to vote actually did?

  • Yes
  • No
public opinion poll3
Public Opinion Poll

State rules governing the voting process— deadlines, early/absentee options, ballot method— vary widely. Should all states have the same rules on these aspects to voting and elections?

  • Yes
  • No
public opinion poll4
Public Opinion Poll

Do you think more people would vote if there were more convenient options, like weekend or online (secured website) voting?

  • Yes
  • No
chapter 8 political participation and voting
Chapter 8: Political Participation and Voting
  • Quizzes
  • Flashcards
  • Outlines
  • Exercises


Following this slide, you will find additional images, figures, and tables from the textbook.