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When we try to figure out the reason for low voter participation in the United States, thoughts turn towards the fact that there is a lack of registered voters among the adult population.
  • Compared to other European nations, the US has a relatively low voter turnout rate.
    • Apathy is not responsible for this problem, but it that a low percentage of adult population is registered to vote.
  • Unlike in most European nations where voter registration is done for you, in the United States citizens find themselves having to go through the trouble of going out to find a place to register and if they move they will have to do the process over again
  • In order to make it easier for citizens to register, congress passed a law in 1993 know as the motor-voter law, which allowed citizens to register to vote at the same time as they applied for a driver's license.
  • 2 months after the motor-voter law took affect in 1995, 630,000 new voters had signed up in 27 different states (Wilson).
  • The issue with the motor-voter law is, according to a 2001 study, "that those who register when the process is cost less are less likely to vote" (Wilson).

State to Federal Control

  • At first, the states had to decide almost everything in terms of voting, which led to a large variation in early federal elections. Since the Constitution leaves the power of determining who can vote to the states (this is noted as the elastic clause at play), the Federal government can only restrict what specifications can not be used to determine who votes. This led to Constitutional amendments like the 15th, 19th, 24th, and 26th.
  • the vote was limited to property owners or taxpayers, but by the presidency of Andrew Jackson it had been broadened to include virtually all white male adults. (Wilson)
  • Before 1961 residents of the District of Columbia could not vote in presidential elections (Wilson).
  • Congress did have the right to alter state regulations regarding congressional elections.
  • State prerogatives have been reduced by Congress through laws and Constitutional amendments.
  • An 1842 law required all members of the House of Representatives to be selected from a congressional elections to be conducted on a single-member district basis by before members could have been chosen from elections that were done across the state.
    • The only provision requiring a popular election is in Article I of the Constitution where members of the House of Representatives be chosen by the "people of several states (Wilson)
The 15th, 19th, 23rd, 24th, and 26th furthered the franchise of political participation by allowing citizens of any race, gender, and age above 18 to vote and eliminated many restriction to vote that existed at the time.
15th Amendment, 1870: stated that the right to vote could not be denied to any "on account of race, color and or previous servitude." (Wilson)
  • The Supreme Court in the 1870s held that voters could not be denied explicitly because of their ethnicity; this led to Southerners making arbitrary rules in order to prevent many blacks from voting as long as they did not relate to race.
  • Many White Southerners used intimidation as a method to keep African Americans from voting.
  • While African Americans had to deal with groups like the Ku Klux Klan, women generally were not kept from voting by methods of intimidation. Therefore, when laws no longer stopped them from voting, unlike African Americans, the women tended to flock to polls in large numbers.
19th Amendment, 1920: gave women the right to vote(Wilson).
  • Most women were kept from the polls mostly because of intimidation, but began to vote in large external image arrow-10x10.png as laws changed (Wilson).
    • The first state to give women the right to vote was Wyoming in 1890. Within 10 years, Idaho, Colorado and Utah also gave women the right to vote. This gradual push is what eventually resulted in the proposal and ratification of the 19th amendment in 1920
  • Although the voting population doubled after women were no longer external image arrow-10x10.png the vote, there were no upsets or strange external image arrow-10x10.png in elections as was thought during that time. Women had similar voting patterns to men however, they did tend to vote less frequently than males.
23rd Amendment, 1961: Extended the right to vote in presidential elections to residents of the District of Columbia
24th Amendment, 1964: Abolished the use of a poll for federal elections or primaries.
26th Amendment, 1971: gave eighteen to twenty year olds the right to vote(Wilson).
  • Voter turnout by young people between 18 and 25 year olds is significantly lower than the national population.
-Various other laws set a required date for federal elections (even-numbered years on the first Tuesday in November)
-Despite the passage of this legislation, younger citizens did not flock to one group or candidate and their participation has steadily decreased relative to rates among senior citizens(Wilson).
-Supreme Court knocked down Congress' initial attempt to pass this law because the federal government has no say with state elections.
During these vigorous years many people faced hardships and especially the African Americans. They were exempt from voting because they were denied the right to vote in the south through the Jim Crow laws and very especially damaged by the following requirements and issues:
    • Literacy test:requirement for a person to pass a literary test to vote
      • Most Blacks were unable to read or write
      • Used from the 1890's to the 1960's (until the Voting Rights Act)
      • Literacy tests were made extremely difficult for the sole purpose of blocking out blacks from voting.
      • The tests were taken out because of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.
      • Note: It was the Fifteenth Amendment that required states to not deny citizens the right to vote on the basis of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude; however, methods such as the literacy test and the grandfather clause made it so that they could not vote, since technically it did not deny them the right to vote based on their race, but rather on these "tests" designed specifically to external image arrow-10x10.png African Americans. The Southern states took advantage of the loose interpretation of the amendment in order to still contain African Americans.
  • Poll tax: requirement that a person pay a tax to vote. This was eliminated by the 24th Amendment to the Constitution in 1964 (The reason why poll tax was brought to attention was because most slaves were extremely poor, and this helped eliminate them from voting without taking away their rights.)
    • Also with the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and Harper v. Virginia Board of Elections in 1966 that aided in the elimination of poll tax.
  • The Grandfather Clause: a clause in registration that allows people who did not otherwise pass the voting requirements to vote if they had an ancestor who had voted before 1867, and could prove it. It was intended to prevent African-American former slaves (generally poor and illiterate) and their families from voting, while it still allowed poor/illiterate white males to vote. (Ruled unconstitutional in Guinn v. United States in 1915 because it favored potential white voters over potential black voters.)
  • White primary: the practice to keep blacks from voting in the Southern primaries by using arbitrary registration requirements, and the fear of being beaten up by white supremacist called the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) or other intimidation tactics that would keep black voters from voting (White primaries were declared unconstitutional in Smith v. Allwright in 1944).
  • The rulings declaring the grandfather clause and white primary unconstitutional made it so only a small piece of the blacks the external image arrow-10x10.png and vote, and this only occurred in the large cities.
One by one, each of these discriminatory policies were taken down in the Supreme Court, but a change in the proportion of voting-age African Americans was slow to be seen. The change to get rid of these restrictions on African American voting did not occur until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed, which
  1. suspended the use of literacy tests
  2. authorized the appointment of federal examiners who could external image arrow-10x10.png the registration of blacks in states and counties where less than half of the voting-age population was external image arrow-10x10.png or had voted in the last presidential election
  3. established criminal penalties for interfering with the right to vote.

As African Americans started to vote at a higher rate, the nature of politics was forced to change. White southern politicians, like Governor George Wallace, had to stop making pro-segregation speeches and behave in ways that would appease the African American population in order to win their votes.

It is important to realize that after each of these amendments were passed, very few of the newly voting-eligible population actually tried to vote. African Americans took well into the 1970s and 1980s before they made a big difference in elections, women did not vote in large external image arrow-10x10.png directly after the passage of 19th amendment, and the government still has trouble getting 18-20 year-olds to vote, because they are one of the groups (if not the group) that votes the least.
  • Gerrymandering:the partisan redrawing of congressional district borders, according to Meltzer and Levy.
    • Political parties attempt to gain an advantage over each other by drawing district borders in a way that will get their members elected
    • Since reapportionment happens every ten years, every ten years is when it can occur.
  • During the Jim Crow era, voting districts were drawn in such a way that the locations with many African Americans that were eligible to vote had little actual say in government.
  • The Supreme Court decision in Baker v Carr (1962) established the one man, one vote external image arrow-10x10.png.
  • Allows for an almost guaranteed victory in the general election if you have a victory in the primary election many times creating an unopposed winning streak for House incumbents. (Meltzer and Levy)
  • Voting Rights Act of 1965- "suspended the use of literacy tests" and "provided criminal penalties for interfering with the right to vote." It also "authorized the appointment of federal examiners" who could order the registration of blacks in states and counties where less than 50% of the voting-age population were external image arrow-10x10.png. (Wilson and Dilulio)
  • The Voting Rights Act of 1970 gave 18 year olds the right to vote in federal elections and contained a provision that lowered the voting age in state elections to 18 but this was external image arrow-10x10.png to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. As a result, the 26th Amendment was proposed to extend suffrage to 18 year old in 1971.
  • Voting age Population: Citizens who are eligible to vote after reaching the minimum age requirement.
  • external image arrow-10x10.png voters: people who are registered to vote.
    • There was a great deal of protest prior to the amendment. As America was in the middle of the Vietnam War, young adults believed that if they were able to fight in a war, they should be able to vote.
    • However, their overall turnout was lower than the population as a whole and they did not identify themselves with any particular candidate or party.
  • Malapportionment, or the creation of districts that have an unfairly smaller external image arrow-10x10.png of people to represent, is an illegal practice similar to gerrymandering.
  • Australian Ballot: A government printed ballot with uniform dimensions to be cast in secret. By 1890, all but 3 states were using this ballot to reducing voting fraud.
    • Though the Australian ballot was effective in eliminating some of the fraudulent voting, it did not end it absolutely.
    • It eliminated the old party-printed ballots cast in public.
    • In short if votes had been legally cast and honestly counted in the 19th century election turnout might well be lower than the inflated figures we now have.
  • Stricter registration policies resulted in unexpected consequences, both good and bad. They helped reduce fraud but along with that came lower voter turnout.
  • Since the Australian Ballot was adopted, we say voter turnout has decreased. However before the Australian Ballot the votes accounted for had been dishonestly counted, therefore might not have truly been as high as we think.
Voter Turnout
  • Initially, aliens in the process of becoming citizens could vote until 1890
  • Between 1860-1900 every presidential election would have at least 70% of the eligible voting population turnout to vote.
  • "By 1880 only an estimated 14% of all adult males in the U.S. could not vote" (Wilson)
  • Starting with the Jackson administration (1829-1837), voting broadened to include almost all white male adults, increasing the population eligible to vote. (Wilson)
  • These figures began to decline after the 1900 election and from 1928 to current presidential elections the turnout has remained fairly consistent between about 50%-60%.
  • One view is that the decline in turnout has been real- it is the result of a decline of popular interest in elections and less competition between the two major parties
  • The other view is that the decline is more apparent than real- in the past, it was easy for parties and voters to vote more than once, and voting fraud was commonplace, so that means early statistics on voting may be off because of this fraudulent voting and may be inflated with the figures we have now.
    • A quintessential example of voting fraud is the Tammany Hall scandal led by William "Boss" Tweed. This was a democratic political machine.
    • Political machines did have a profound impact on voting structures of the time, but have been done away with by now due to many laws destroying their ability to be established, leading to our current numbers making more sense.
  • In order to counter voting fraud, voter registration became stricter by requiring more measures to make the practice less prone to fraud, which made it difficult for certain groups, such as those with little education, to register.
  • Strict voter registration procedures tended to have many consequences. While it did decrease fraudulent voting it also decreased voting in general. It also made it harder for the honest people actually vote in their own interest.
  • Voter turnout has been historically higher for general elections than for primaries:
external image TTW1DXv.png
  • Aliens in the process of becoming a citizen were no longer allowed to vote in most states (Wilson, 185).
  • It is therefore difficult to measure/understand the real meaning behind voter turnout figures (at least from before 1960).
  • Voter turnout is loser for midterm elections. (Meltzer)
    • less than 40% participate
  • Turnout is highest among Americans over age 40 (Meltzer)
  • Turnout is lowest among American under age 20 (Meltzer)
  • By percentage of registered voters Americans vote more than the percentage of voters by age eligibility.
  • Voter turnout is highest for presidential elections.
  • Calls to overhaul the national voting system
    • Following controversy of the 2000 presidential election in Florida
    • 2002: Congress passed a measure that requires each state to have a system for counting the disputed ballots of voters whose names weren't on the the official registration lists. It also provided funds for voting equipment, procedures, and training
    • After 2004, overhaul proposals silenced

Voter participation in presidential elections, 1860-2004
external image IwvtzbQ.png

  • Americans vote less than Europeans because there is a huge number of elective offices, about 521,000 to vote on compared to that of a European government, as well as far more frequent elections.
  • Participation is higher among those who have a college education than those who do not, and higher among those who are forty-five years old and older than those who are thirty-five years and younger. (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • Men and women vote at about the same rate, however blacks and white do not vote at the same rate. (Wilson and Dilulio)
  • Having roughly the same level of income and schooling-blacks tend to participate more than whites.( Wilson and Dilulio)
    • Voting-age Population: Citizens who are eligible to vote after reaching the minimum age requirement.
    • Registered Voters: people who are registered to vote
  • Even though the level of distrust in the government may be related to voter turnout, there is indeed no known association between voter turnout and the level of distrust in the government. Individuals who have higher levels of distrust of the government would be likely to vote just as much as one who has lower levels or is neutral towards the government.
Types of Voters:
  • Activists: people who tend to participate in all forms of politics. (Wilson and Dilulio).
    • 11% or 1/9 of the population are activists.
    • Usually consisted of the political Elitist and was very effective in altering elections.
    • The people that are activists are tend to be more educated, mostly in the middle class, and are richer.
  • Inactives: rarely vote; low income, less educated, young, minorities, 22% of eligible population.
    • 1/5 of the population are inactives
    • Many are African Americans
    • They do not vote in elections and typically don't even talk about politics very much.
  • Voting Specialists: vote, but little political participation; less educated, older, low income.
  • Campaigners: Vote and get involved in campaign activities; more educated; identify with party; interest in conflict and passion; hold strong positions.
  • Parochial Participants:don't vote or participate in political organizations, but do contact local politicians about specific problems. ( often personal problems)
  • Communalists: Non-partisan community activists with local focus, often contacting local officials about the problems in their community.
  • Much like campaigners in social background, however do not like conflict and tension of partisan campaigns.
  • There are two camps: Conventional and Unconventional (Benson and Waples)
    • Conventional: Widely accepted modes of influencing government through persuasion, bribing, running for office, voting, and giving money to campaigns. Other than the most typical and popular form of participation (voting), these forms are all on the rise.
    • Unconventional: Dramatic activities through violence as a way to pressure the government to change its policies. Also, there are protesting and civil disobedience. Although this is not supported by many, violence can get the people what they want with the government. An example of civil disobedience being conducted effectively can be seen during the 1950s and 1960s, when Martin Luther King Jr. and other pro-civil rights groups retrieved expanded rights for African Americans.

Participation Rates
  • Americans may be voting less but they are participating more.
    • There are other alternatives other than voting to participate in politics such as:
      • Joining civic associations & interest groups
      • Supporting social movements
      • Writing to legislators
      • Participating in local affairs
        • this includes rights granted to voters, including:
          • referendum: allows citizens to vote on laws passed by legislature
          • recall:this allows voters to vote to remove an official in office before their term ends
          • initiative: this allows citizens to place proposals for legislation on the ballot
      • Discussing politics and going to political meetings
      • Forming PACs
      • Forming 527 groups (the loophole to limits on contributions in a PAC) and promoting a political agenda
  • Sit-ins & protest marches, among other public demonstrations, have become much more common in recent decades than before (Wilson 192).
  • U.S citizens elect far more officials than do citizens of any other nation.
  • In many European nations, people get to vote only once every four to five years, making their elections more important and significant to voters. In comparison, though Americans vote at lower rates, their votes tend to have a greater effect on the political system.
  • Because only a certain portion of the voting-age population actually turns out to vote, votes are not entirely representative in the United States.
  • The proportion of each social class votes at about the same rate in Japan and Sweden, but in the United States people of higher socioeconomic and education status have higher voter turnout.
  • In years 1967-1987, Americans participation in presidential and local elections severely dropped.
  • Since the 1960’s, an average of 56% of those legally old enough to cast votes has voted (Wilson, 187).
  • Men and women tend to vote at about the same rate. However, blacks and whites do not.
  • Rates have decreased because political parties today do not mobilize voters as well as they used to.
  • African Americans are more likely to participate in protests and get involved in organizations not related to politics.
  • Between the years 1960 and 1996, the percent of nonvoters with some college education rose from 7% to 39%, while the number of nonvoters with white-collar jobs rose from 33% to 50% (Wilson).
  • Democrats believe higher voter turnout will help them in elections, while Republicans believe that this will hurt them. As a result, Democrats and Republicans often fight over measures to increase voting registration. In reality, however, no one really knows which party will be helped or hurt by an increase in voter turnout (Wilson).

Voting age population
  • Voting Age,according to Wilson,are "citizens who are eligible to vote after reaching the minimum age requirement" (18)
  • in the USA, only two-thirds of the voting age population is registered to vote.
  • Although the 26th Amendment allowed the voting age to be lowered to eighteen, the representation of younger voters is hardly what was expected of the change in voting policy.
  • Though young voters are not particularly affiliated with any specific political party, they tend to hold more liberal views overall.

Voting Eligible Population
  • This includes anyone who is technically eligible to vote, so it excludes people who are incarcerated, and non-citizens who are over the age of 18.
  • Voter turnout is significantly higher when calculated using the voting eligible population rather than the voting age population, but is still less than 60% on average (Wilson)

Voter Registration
Congress passed a motor-voter law (1993) to make it easier to register to vote
    • Requires states to allow people to register to vote when applying for their driver's license
    • Also offered through schools, libraries, disability centers, and registration centers.
    • Took effect in 1995, but did not make a significant effect on the amount of registered voters
    • A 2001 study concluded "that those who register when the process is costless are less likely to vote" (Wilson and Dilulio)
  • Voter mobilization strategies: door to door canvasing, electronic mail, direct mail, and phone banks have not proven effective in increasing the voter turnout though they have slightly increased the number of registered voters
  • In low-turnout elections, people who normally vote anyway s are more receptive towards voter mobilization techniques, especially when contact is face-to-face (Wilson 179)
  • Some states allow Election Day voter registration, which allows voters to register the day of an election at a polling place. Other states put a limit on how many days before an election you have to be registered by.
  • Online registration has been made available online in some states.
  • Only US citizens of voting age can register to votes. Depending on the state, some states prohibit convicted felons from voting or registering for that matter too.

Voting Rates
  • a relatively low percentage of the adult population is registered to vote.
  • One is more likely to vote if he or she went to college and/ or is over the age of 35.
  • Religious involvement increase political participation
  • However, religion can also keep some out of the polls, if their faith forbids political participation or involvement. This does have an effect in the amount of voter turnout, but relatively does not matter in cleavages between candidates or opinions, because those who would not be voting are almost completely uninformed, due to their religion barring involvement.
    • Regular churchgoer who takes his or her faith seriously are likelier to vote (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • "Men and women vote at about the same rate" (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • Studies were done to show the disparities in voting rates between twenty four nations that practiced some form of democracy. The researchers found three correlative aspects between the voter turnout of the nations:
    • The Importance of the parties: In America political parties have become less significant. The proportion of those who consider themselves Independents has risen noticeably over the last century. For example, in 1952 23 percent of those registered to vote considered themselves independents, while data from 2002 reveals that only 23 percent of those eligible to vote registered as independents. The percentage of those that identify strongly with either party has also dropped (Wilson and Dilulio 199).
    • Registration Procedure: Registration is not compulsory either in the United States. It is also not automatic. Whereas automatic registration is associated with higher voting rates, there is also the greater possibility of fraud. The progressives sought an end to the fraud involved with multiple voting. Other studies have also suggest that if all states were in line with the requirements involved with registration set by the states in which it is easiest to register, the voter turnout in the presidential election would increase be an estimated 9 percent. Some states, for example, use Election Day voter registration methods, which allow the citizens to register and vote on the same day. These states do have slightly higher voter turnout rates (Wilson and Dilulion 189).
    • Laws regarding voting: In many countries with significantly higher voting rates, it is mandatory to vote. One example is Australia, where the those that do not vote can be penalized and must pay a monetary fee. Even though these measures are rarely employed, the thought of having to pay a fee deters individuals from not voting. Americans in general have an objection to having mandatory voting laws. [1]

Causes of Participation (Wilson & Dilulio)
  • The greater the youthfulness of the population, less percentage of voters who are registered and vote.
  • Participation is higher among people who have gone to college and who are over forty-four years of age
    • it may not be schooling itself that causes participation but something correlated with schooling, like high levels of political information
    • less-educated people tend to exaggerate how frequently they vote so there may be a larger participation gap between those who attended college and those who didn't
  • Political parties are no longer as effective in mobilizing voters.
    • Parties once were grassroots organizations with which many people strongly identified. Today, parties are more distant like a natural bureaucracy that people do not identify strongly with; party loyalties and ties have declined in recent years among voters so there is less incentive to vote. (Wilson)
  • Some data suggests and interesting point: no association can be seen when comparing voter turnout with those that are skeptic of government leaders. The mistrust of government grew during the 1970's through the 1990's as the U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War gained infamy, Watergate unfolded, and Clinton was impeached Wilson and Dilulio 87). The data suggests, however, that mistrust in government does not necessarily lead people to not voting as well (Wilson and Dilulio 189).
  • Federal law since 1970 prohibited residency requirements lasting longer than 30 days for presidential elections.
  • Religious involvement increases political participation. Church affairs, in some churches, are held in almost a governmental structure. As churchgoers are familiarized to voting and taking part in events in their churches, there is a great increase in voting rates among churchgoers.
  • The remaining impediments to registration exert some influence.
  • if non-voting is costless, there will be more non-voting.
    • Example: Some nations with higher voter turnouts make voting compulsory and people who don't vote have consequences. This fear and threat probably induces more people to register and vote (Wilson and Dilulio).
  • Voting will go down if people don't feel elections matter, this is a result from a decline in political efficacy.
  • the greater youthfulness of the population (associated with the baby boom of 1960s and 1970s) and the greater number of African Americans as well as other minorities has caused the percentage of voters who are registered and vote to decrease (voter turnout in presidential elections has decreased since the early 1960s)
  • While men and women may vote at the same rate, black and whites do not. In the past, this had been due to discrimination while today, it can be explained as on average, blacks and whites are in different social classes (Wilson, 188).
  • Nonvoters are more likely to be poor, uneducated, black, or Hispanic
  • One party's efforts to get nonvoters to vote will be matched by the opposing party's efforts. This has been seen in Jesse Jackson's bid for presidency, when southern blacks and subsequently southern whites started voting.
  • If people feel as though their opinions do not matter, and they have no sense of political efficacy, both internal efficacy (where they feel they understand what government does and that they have a say in what the government does), and/or external efficacy (where the government responds to the demands of the people who participated in voting and politics), they will be less likely to vote in all types of elections.

Differences in Public Opinion
Social Class
  • Public opinion and voting are less affected by class in the U.S. than so in other countries
    • This is most likely because the U.S. is not as class conscious as other nations
  • American "white collar" workers tend to have more conservative views on welfare than "blue collar" workers
  • By the 1960s, views of "white collar" workers, work that is performed in an office or administrative setting, have become very similar to those of "blue collar" workers, work that requires manual labor.
    • "white collar" jobs refer to office type jobs while "blue collar" refers to labor oriented jobs
Race and Ethnicity
  • Wilson states, "Blacks favor a stronger affirmative action program; whites are opposed to it" and "Blacks believe that the criminal justice system is biased against them; whites disagree"
  • Most blacks and whites oppose quotas
  • Blacks and Hispanics identify themselves as Democrats
  • Cubans and Asians tend to vote Republican
  • Generally, Hispanics "favor bigger government, oppose legalizing abortions...and think that the Democratic party cares more about them and is better able to handle...issues"
  • Even though minorities are less likely to vote than whites, according to Benson and Waples, this may be "a socioeconomic phenomenon" because in the end, minorities with the same income and level of education as whites tend to have higher voter turnout rates.
  • Blacks are more likely to participate in government than Latinos because they are more likely to be members of churches that "stimulate political interest, activity, and mobilization" (American Government, Pg. 193)
  • Blacks are more likely to protest than Anglo Whites and Latinos combined, showing African Americans actually have a high level of political efficacy
    • Blacks tend to protest more than they vote
  • Wilson and DiIulio also suggest that language barriers discourage political participation of Latinos (193).
  • Although blacks are less involved than whites, blacks participate at higher rates than Latinos (Wilison and Diilulio).
    • This may be true since blacks are more likelier than Latinos to be part of churches that stimulate political interest, activity, and mobilization
  • Dating back to the early days of immigration, Catholics and Jews tend to vote Democratic (Republicans traditionally supported anti-immigration legislation).
  • White Evangelical Christians vote strongly in favor of Republicans.
  • Strongly affiliated religious groups also tend to vote more often in general elections due to the stronger connection among each churchgoer, compared to those who don't identify with connections to a religion.
  • Religion also seems to be the root for peoples reasons to be against certain issues such as abortion and gay marriage.
  • Southerners often vote differently than Northerners on things such as social welfare and liberty.
  • Southerners are generally more conservative than Northerners, being mostly liberal.
  • Urban areas tend to house a more liberal, Democratic population.
  • Rural areas tend to house a more conservative, Republican population.

  • According to the book, college tends to have a liberalizing effect on most students
    • Wilson also notes that the longer a student stays in college, the more liberal they tend to become

The Meaning of Participation Rates
  • Though Americans are voting less they are campaigning and contacting government officials to fix problems in their community, as seen in drastic changes between 1967 and 1987, when the voting trends and rates of people using alternative means of participation were distinctly seen changing. (Wilson)
  • Public demonstrations' rates have significantly increased over the years. e.g. There were only 6 demonstrations per year from 1950-1959, but 140 demonstrations per year from 1960-1967.
  • Voting rates are low in America compared to other European nations but one has to understand that the average American votes more often than the average European and has more opportunities to elect many officials that will represent that state, like senators, representatives, a state treasurer and many more. As such American voting affects a far greater part of the political system than voting in other countries. (Wilson)
  • In various European countries, voters have a chance to vote only every four to five years so its more important that they do, increasing their participation rate.
  • The different types of people who vote in the United States is also important. The voter turnout in the U.S. is heavily skewed towards higher-status people and the upper-class. This differs from European countries because while almost everyone votes there, only about half of our voting population actually votes, so they may not be truly representative of the population.
  • The fastest growing minorities are often the most underrepresented among American voters (Wilson). This supports the idea that because so few people vote in the US, the polls are not representative of the entire nation.
  • It is not clear what exactly is the cause behind poor voter turnout among minorities, but some believe it could have to do with language barriers and socioeconomic backgrounds that are significantly lower than white Americans (Wilson).

  1. ^ Wilson and Dilulio, American Government Institutions and Policies (tenth edition), pg. 189-190