Voter Turnout • Historically low, especially mid-term elections. Younger voters have lowest turnout. • Both trends reversed in 2008, but future unclear • See Figure 7.2, p. 197
Political Attitudes Turnout & party identification related to: • Political socialization (influence of parents, schools, peer groups) • Socio-economic factors (class, race, education, age)
Other Barriers to Voting • Structural • Voter Registration is not quick and easy. • Personal • Not sufficient time to vote • Apathy & mistrust of government • Lack of a sense of political efficacy • Presidential elections last too long
Barriers to Voting • Personal
Political Participation • Working with political parties & candidates • Working with non-partisan organizations • Writing letters to the newspaper, posting on blogs • Signing petitions • Making lifestyle choices consistent with policy preferences
Political Parties & Democracy • Citizens organize their political activity through parties & the election process. • Parties develop from our differences about how to achieve common goals. A natural product of a free society.
Purpose of Parties According to the text, a political party “runs candidates for public office under the party’s name.” (p. 202) Parties also seek to influence public policy. They want to win office so they can affect what decisions are made.
Purpose of Parties • Even when they lose, parties perform a useful role by organizing the opposition and offering alternatives. • Parties create important links between the voter, groups & government. To succeed, they must build consensus.
American Political Parties * Recruit & run candidates for office * Seek to influence public opinion on their candidates & policy issues * Build broad coalitions of interest groups * Respond to public concerns by adopting proposals of other groups
Major Political Parties in U.S. • Republican National Party • http://www.rnc.org/ • Democratic National Party • http://www.democrats.org/
Two Party System in the U.S. • Tend to be umbrella parties. Left Right • Disadvantage: Voter choice is limited.
Two Party System in the U.S. • Either party has a genuine chance to win office; elections truly competitive. • Additional parties are not banned but they have difficulty winning office.
Barriers to Multiple Parties • Election System • Single member plurality • Electoral College • Difficulty getting on ballots, getting funds, getting news coverage • Moderate American voters
Single Member Plurality System One seat per district. Candidate who wins a plurality of the vote in the district wins the seat. A majority (50%) is not needed. Found in: U.S., Canada, India, Britain, New Zealand, Germany.
Electoral College 48 states use “winner-take-all” process in presidential election. Winning by even one vote gives a candidate all of the state’s electors. Works against a 3rd party candidate. Example: Ross Perot & Reform Party in 1992 won 19% of the popular vote but not one elector.
Minor U.S. Political Parties Among them: • Green Party • http://www.gp.org/ • Democratic Socialists of America • http://www.dsausa.org/dsa.html • Libertarian Party • http://www.lp.org/
Realigning Elections • Occur when voters permanently change their party identification. • Realigning elections in the U.S. occurred in 1860 (abolition of slavery) and 1932 (role of national government in the economy). • Elections in the 1980s and 2004/2008 are not clearly realigning ones.
Election 2012 News • Washington Post stories on • Obama’s early fundraising efforts. • The changed environment for any Republican challenger. • Republican fundraising efforts.