GOVP3A voting behaviour



Women: more likely to be registered voters, democrat support
Men: republican support 

Gender gap – the gap between the support given to a candidate by women and the support given to the same candidate by men

Reason for this is because of the stance of each party of key policy areas, such as;

  • Abortion (democrats more pro choice)
  • Environment (democrats want more regulation)
  • Defense, Law+Order (rep. social conseravtism, hawksih views on foreign policy)
  • Gun control (democrats por gun control)
  • Health, education and wealthcare (democrats place more emphasis)
  • Death Penalty (deomcrats against)

Therefore, to win an election Republicans try to appeal to more women and Democrats to more men. However, because more women are registered voters, the larger the turnout the better it is for the Democrats 

Recognition of female vote; 2004- 'security mums', 2008-'hockey mums'

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Mixed evidence, hard to determine any particular correlation between voting habits and age

Young voters (18-29) tend to vote Democrat, whereas Seniors (60+) tend to vote Republican 

  • Older voters, more likely to have party identification AND more likely to vote
  • Emphasis on the 'grey vote' from both parties, and issues affecting older people- Medicare
  • Younger voters, de-aligned and volatile, not reliable despite the 'Rock the Vote' campaign

2008: Obama won the votes 68% fo first-time voters and 66% of 18-29 

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 Democrats appeal to low income voters, less affluent, – Wal-Mart voters (those earning under $15,000 a year)

Republicans appeal to high income voters, more affluent, – Starbucks voters (those earning over $100,000 a year)

Occupational differences:

eg) unionised car workers -democrats

bussiness executives - republicans

Down to the economic policies of the parties

However, in 2008 Obama won a majority between both the wealthy and poorer voters 

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  • northeast states, (bad news?! declining area)
  • rust belt, industrial states, coastal states, cities (democrat wins 60% of cities)
  • west coast also tends to support democrats
  • massachusetts, NY, California, Illinois


  • 'solid south' (good news! growing area)
  • 'bible belt' also vote republicans
  • mountain states, rural and suburban areas,
  • texas, georgia, kansas, south carolina

Swing State

  • midwest is a battle ground, traditionally whoever wins Missouri wins Whitehouse
  • ohio, florida, michigan, missouri

SOLID SOUTH: untill 1960, solidly democrats but not solidly republican. 

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Race + Ethnicity

The Hispanic Vote:

  • fastest growing minority
  • 'sleeping giant'
  • concentrated in key states, eg) florida
  • spanish speaking, 
  • over 70% are catholic, leads to vote-switching over abortion ect
  • majority democrat for social reasons, mobilised over issue of imigration in 2008
  • 2008: obama won 66% of hispanic vote
  • made 7% of electorate in 2012

The Asian Vote:

  • growing group not united by language or culture 
  • origins in a number of countries; Vietnam, Japan, Korea
  • 2004: 55% Democrat, 44% Republican
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Race + Ethnicity (The Black Vote)

The Black Vote (African-Americans)

  • Since 1930, been the most overwhelmignly solid group of Democrats
  • Before then it had been Republican due to Lincolns freeing of slaves
  • Realigned support to Democrats in response to Roosevelt
    Heavily concentrared in certain states and milti0ethnic cities

    So democrat because:

  • The New Deal and Great Society legacy of activist god and welfare programmes benefting poorer groups in society
  • Democrats support for Civil Rights Movement
  • Democrats suppoer for affirmative action programmes
  • Democrats black role models, govenors, congress and OBAMA!
  • Republicans fail to support/represnt black interests, white party supported by white people.
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  • WASP vote strongly Republican because to early white settlers were protestants
  • Catholic voters (irish, italian, hispanic) have historically identified with Democrats, some switched in 2004 attracted by social conservatism of Republicans over abortiong + gay marriage, but in 2008 majority voted Democrat
  • Jewish voters traditionally Democrat because of minority status and liber views, usually active in support of pro-Israel candidates. Key in NY and florida.
  • Regular churchgoes vote Republican, secular voters Democrat
    • Christian fundamentalists are the culture conservatives of US politics and are Republican
    • Sided with Religion in 'Culture Wars' against secular values.
    • Religious Cable Chanlles offer voting guides and are strong in Bible Belt, South, Small towns and rural areas.
    • Influences of the party may have swerved more moderate Republican voters,
    • In 2004: one in four voters were evangelical Chirsitans, and almost 70% voted Bush. 
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Core Voters

Dependent on lots of factors, related to history, ideology and policies of each party.

Democratic Party: more liberal, 
associated with less affluent, minorities and offering interventionist policies to help them.
Untill 1960's + the breakdown of the New Deal Coalition it'd been the party of the South.
More liberal positions on issues, attracts more intellecutal and radical voters

Republican Party: more conservative
associated with rich, WASP,
policies favouring bussiness, free markets, fiscal + social conservatism
more welthy, white, rural, suburban voters 

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Independent Voters

§  Disengaged (24%)

§  Disguised Partisans (24%)

§  Deliberators (18%)

§  Disillusioned (18%)

§  Dislocated (uncomfortable with the polarized parties) (16%) 

Independent voters (which make up 25-30% of the electorate) are crucial in determining some elections.
For example, independent voters were critical in giving Obama victory in 2008, they gave him an 8% point advantage. Splitting it 52-44%. 

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Partisan Alignment

Party Identification Model: stresses the importance of partisanship in explaining voting behaviour.

Factors such as family socialisation and socioeconmic statues can cause individuals to develop a strong attachment to parties and align with them.
Regardless of changing candidates and issues, these people will vote elcetion after election for the same party.
These make up the 'core voters'

Levels of partianship fluctuate but high levels lead to fairly preditable patterns of voting behaviour. 

IN 2008:

  • 71% of voters identified with one of the two major parties
  • 39% called themselves Democrats
  • 31% called themselves Republicans
  • 89% of the Democrats voted for Obama
  • 90% of the Republicans voted for McCain
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Partisan De-alignment

Increased de-alignment leads to more volatility and an increased chance of ticket-splitting.

It can cause more core 'swing voters', more abstention. 

The process of de-alignment sees voters loosing or having weaker attachments and as a result are more inclined to respond to specific candidates. It can also increase to greater or lesser degree of issue voting rather than voting on a basis of loyalty.

Causes parties to work harded to win their votes.

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Voter Registration

Constitution: states equal rights for race, gender and ago over 18.

Only US citizens can vote - not permanent residents with Green Cards.

Registering is the responsibilty for each individual when they turn 18.


Forces state governments to make voter registration easier by providing uniform registration through drivers license centres, disability centres, schools, libraries and mail-in reigstration.

Some states allow Election Day Registration

Some states allow online registrations

When registering they may declare affiliation with a party allowing participation in closed primaries

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Partisan Re-alignment

Re-aligning elections are critical elections.

The US goes through democratic and republican peroids where one party usually wins and even if the other does it still has to accept it's ideology.

Reasons for re-alignment:

racial desegregation

gender issues

ethnic group issues

moral issues

economic issues

ideology issues


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Recency Factors

Short-term recency factors such as:

  • Candidate Voting
    personality, image, experience, charisma. media-dominated politics focused on candidate-centered campaigns 
     McCain was seen as a bit old and grumpy in 2008. Obama won, dancing with Ellen, admitting to smoking marijuana + funny jokes/ attracted the young. Sarah Palin effect: beauty queen, gun trotting, hockey mom = bounce in MaCain = overshadowed Joe Biden, scandal $150,000 on cloths, heartbeat away from presidenc
  • Issue Voting
    'single issue politics', economic issues very important. 2004: moral issues, abortion, gay marriage. backlash against religious right values + this may cause a loss of voters rather than a win. 'Time for change' =Obama instead of McCain
  • Performance Voting
    Judgements on past performance,
    Bush Snr 1992 after recession, poor perofmanceObama 2012, voters were satsified with how he worked. Second term: Clinton 1996-economic boom, Bush 2004-war president 
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Split Ticket Voting

Voters can vote straight tickets by voting for the same party for each office, voters who vote for candidates for different office from diffierent parties on the same ballot paper at the same election are seen as splitting their vote. 

The process has fluctutaed hugely, it was high in 1970s and 1980s and in 1984 55% of Democratic identifiers voted for Reagan but he was faced with a Democrat majority in the House. However it has been less common in recent elections.

The main consequence of split-ticket voting is divided government in Washington, that leads to a much-criticised legislative 'gridlock'. However the outcome of split ticket voting may be positive for voters as it means they get the best of both worlds.

Eg) voting for a Republican President can mean low taxes but strong defense, and then voting for a Deomcratic congressmen could mean higher spending on welfare.

It also helps prevent elective dictatorship seeing as this results in more effective checks and balances.

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Greatest conutry but the lowest turnout?!

How can high abstention be explained?

    • Voter registration; however 2002 act made it easier
    • Lack of choice; uninspiring, 2004: Texas Cowboy V Boston Elitist
    • Decline in partisan; strong identifiers vote more
    • Voter apathy + cynicism; Washington isn't represntative
    • System + Electoral College; safe seats
    • Media Campaigner; soundbites, photo-opportunities
    • Democratic Overload + Voter Fatigue; too many elections
    • Hapthy; voters already so content

Turnout changes in each election; 2008-64% highest since 1960; due to the success of the 'ground war' more inspiring candidates. FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT

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Differential Abstention

One in every 3 voters of 2008 didnt vote in 2010, -an enthusiasm gap

Abstention more common in typical democratic voters; low income, younger voters. But much less common in Republican voters.

Lower in mid-terms, and even lower in primaries.

Undermines the winning candidate' claim to mandates and legitimacy; the US' biggest democracy flaw.

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    • very easy and also compulsory registration
    • high turnout, except 2001- 59%
    • fewer opportunities to vote
    • requirement for the voter to mark the ballott paper with a single cross
    • role of class is the single most important determing factor
    • less empathy on religion or ethnice factors


    • very complicated vote regsitration (slightly easier since 2002 act)
    • always a very low turnout
    • high numbers of voting opportunites
    • voters can ticket-split
    • role of class is minor, other factors are more influential
    • religion and ethnicity re key factors
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Party Switchers: Democrat to Republican

    • 2002: Virginia, Representative Virgil Goode
    • 2009: Alabama, Representative Parkor Griffith
  • 2009: ARLEN SPECTER switched to democrat after 30 years a Republican

President Aprroval:

    • Obama: Rep approval: 23
      • Dem approval: 88
    •  Johnson: Rep approval: 64
      • Dem approval: 83
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Personality Presidents

McCain: old, gret

Lincoln: witty,

Palin: loved or hated,

Carter: wore sweaters, not shirts or suits,

Romney: flip/flop, too rich, too religious,

Bush Snr: respected

Bush Jnr: dad helped, war presidents, conspiracy theories 9/11,

Gore: boring!

Reagan: telegraphic, charasmatic.

Obama: not extreme, telegraphic, family, not too educated, smoked weed

Hillary Clinton:husband didn't help,

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archie clarke


These are good. When did you make them?

archie clarke


I like "personality Presidents" card.

Old Sir


A very useful set of revision cards for students studying the USA, despite the odd script on slide 3. They might form a good re-introduction for students about to embark upon their own exam preparations.



super helpful in revising voting behaviours in the lead up to my exams 

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