The importance of active civic participation is obvious for the future of a nation and a healthy democracy. In 2004 Presidential election, the republican candidate George Walker Bush won against John Kerry the democrat one. 50.8 percent of the voting ballots were devoted to Bush and 48.3 percent were devoted to Kerry. Also, Ralph Nader won less than 0.4 percent of the votes.
Bush and Kerry had close competitions and at the end Bush was chosen to be the president of the United States. Americans voting behaviors is the subject of this article. The first part of this article discusses people’s behaviors generally and the second part will be devoted to youth voting, specifically.
Different theories and models described Americans voting behaviors in 2004 presidential election. Following you will read about some reasons and models explaining Americans voting behaviors.
1. Party identification model indicates party identification alongside with socialization. Americans are democrats, republicans or independent and party identifications are important in voting behaviors based on race, gender, education and income. In 2004 election men voted more for republicans and women voted for democrats. African Americans and other minorities also supported democrats. Those with less income voted for democrats as well. People who were less educated voted for republicans. These were based on party identifications, but there were people who voted for a certain candidate rather than the certain party.
2. Issue model which focuses on certain issues which effect on voting behaviors of people. Issues are different either domestic or universal. War, economy, health care, terrorism, security, moral values were important on people’s decisions. Statistics indicate the most important elements as war in Iraq, terrorism and homeland security, jobs and unemployment, health care, federal budget and taxes. These were important issues in Americans decision making process.
3. Moral issues and voters’ decision Making process in the 2004 Presidential election were important. For example:” President Bush’s victory, the approval of every anti-gay marriage amendment on statewide ballots and an emphasis on ‘moral values’ among voters showed the power of churchgoing Americans in this election and threw the nation’s religious divide into stark relief.” Associated Press, November 4, 2004
4. Economic conditions, influence consumer confidence, also they influence both political evaluations and votes. But there is little sense of the origins of consumer confidence itself. Consumers are those who vote. Nation’s level of consumer confidence responds to objective economic conditions. Candidates who pay more attention to economic conditions can take measures to satisfy the voters. Politics is important for understanding consumer sentiment beyond what is known from economic conditions. It demonstrates a direct effect of political evaluations of the president’s management of the economy, the party of the president, extraordinary political events, and monetary policy; it also affects media coverage of the economy and consumer sentiment, after controlling for economic conditions. When news is positive, citizens give favorable evaluations; this happens naturally, it causes more positive sentiment. Understanding the political economy needs an emphasis on the causal effect of politics as well as economics. All these create different behaviors by the participants in the Presidential election as it happened in 2004.
5. Impact of personality must be considered in cognitive, behavioral, and affective political processes, too. One to talk about is the effects of the need to evaluate that is a personality trait and reflects a person’s proclivity to create and hold attitudes; people high in that are likely to make attitudes toward all sorts of objects and events. The data from the 1998 National Election Survey Pilot and the 2000 National Election Survey was shown to predict a variety of important attitude-relevant cognitive, behavioral, and affective political processes beyond holding attitudes, it could predict how many evaluative beliefs about candidates one held, the likelihood that a person would use party identification and issue stances to determine candidate preferences. It is important to know that the extent to which a person took part in political activism , the likelihood he voted or intended to vote would change and another thing, the extent to which a person used the news media for gathering information, and the intensity of emotional reactions that felt toward political candidates were effective as well. So the need to evaluate seems to play a significant role in shaping important political behavior, emotion, and cognition.
6. The effect of a subtle reminder of death on voting intentions for the 2004 U.S. presidential election has been considered. It is on the basis of terror management theory which was hypothesized that a mortality salience induction would increase support for President George W. Bush and decrease support for Senator John Kerry. It was late September 2004 and after a mortality salience or control induction; registered voters were asked which candidate they had intended to vote for. According the predictions, Senator John Kerry could receive substantially more votes than George Bush in the control condition, but Bush was favored over Kerry following a reminder of death, suggesting that President Bush’s re-election may have been facilitated by non-conscious concerns about mortality in the aftermath of September 11, 2001.
7. New studies express a powerful empirical relationship between political discussion and political knowledge. And, there has been no clear discussion or demonstration of how political discussion translates into increased political knowledge. A study proposed three explanations on this matter; first, exposure, second anticipatory elaboration that creates links between work on uses, gratifications and news information processing, and third discussion-generated elaboration that focuses on how discussion itself can influence information processing. Some data from 2000 and a local community survey during the 1996 presidential election were used to test these three. The results suggest that the direct relationship between discussion and knowledge may be mediated through motivations and information processing behaviors. They also support the anticipatory elaboration and discussion-generated elaboration explanations while posing questions on the exposure explanation.
8. There was a model by the name of Jobs Model which was well done in 2004.It could predict the Presidential election well. The model was based on data available in August 2004 and its error was only 1.3 percentage points predicting the incumbent share of the two-party popular vote (Lewis-Beck and Tien 2004). On the other hand the median forecast from seven teams of statistical modelers was off 2.6 percentage points (Campbell 2004, 734). It is believed that the Jobs Model was more correct since it broadened measurement of economic performance that is a conceptual variable lying at the core of most of these efforts. It argues that the changing nature of the American economy required attention to a hitherto neglected variable which is job creation.
9. It is the early years of new millennium in politics so the machinery of the “old politics” that was centered on a party-orientation is being replaced by computers of the “new politics” which is centered on an image manufacturing-orientation. It goes with highly integrated marketing strategy that is driven by a candidate’s inner circle of advisors who now control the money and message of both the party and candidate organization. It leads to a very easy transition from election to governing and it happens that the top advisors during the campaign become top advisors to the winners and the key architects of the party administration. All of the developed marketing techniques and means that have been used in politics over the past several years are becoming more sharply focused on one central theme, and that is to produce a winning image for the leader and his/her party.
There are reports that in 1971, 18- to 20- year olds gained the right to vote, and 50 percent of young adults aged 18 to 24 voted in the 1972 presidential election. But voting among young adults has dropped significantly, causing concern among lawmakers and other policy makers.
“The percentage of youth ages 18 to 24 who reported voting and registering to vote was higher in the 2004 presidential election year than in 1996 or 2000 (42 percent reported voting in 2004, compared with 32 percent in both 1996 and 2000).”But, the percentage was lower than when 18- to 20- year olds first gained the right to vote in 1972. Fifty-nine percent of youth had registered to vote in 1972, and only 52 percent registered to vote in 2004. In 1972, 50 percent of youth voted, compared with 42 percent in 2004.
The reasons for declines in voting express that many youth feel uninformed about politics and the electoral process. A study found that one third of high school seniors lack a basic understanding of how the American government operates.
Another report by the National Association of Secretaries of State also got that youth believe that government and elections are not relevant to things about which they care. It has been suggested that this belief elaborates why many prefer to engage in community service, which is actually developing more and more.
Differences by the type of elections, ages, gender, race/ethnicity of voters:
There are differences by type of elections, too.
Fewer youth vote in non-presidential election years, comparing presidential election years. For example seventeen percent of youth voted in the 2002, non-presidential election year, whereas 42 percent voted in the 2004 presidential election year.
Females are more likely than males to report both registering to vote and voting. It is not a lot different, anyhow. In the 2004 election, 55 percent of females aged 18 to 24 registered to vote, compared with 48 percent of males the same age. That was similar to 45 percent of females who actually voted according the reports, compared with 39 percent of males.
Young Hispanics are the least likely to report registering to vote and actually voting in both presidential and non-presidential election years. In 2004, 44 percent of black youth and 43 of white youth reported voting, comparing 20 percent of Hispanic youth. Of course Hispanics may be of any race.