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TEXAS A&M / Political Science / POLS 206 / What is interest group?

What is interest group?

What is interest group?


School: Texas A&M University
Department: Political Science
Course: American National Government
Professor: John bond
Term: Fall 2016
Cost: 50
Name: Study Guide Exam 2
Description: These are notes I have taken from the text book. All rights go to Jon Bond and Kevin Smith. Good Luck on the test!
Uploaded: 10/29/2016
37 Pages 24 Views 11 Unlocks

Exam 2 Study Guide  

What is interest group?

Exam 2 Wednesday, November 2

Topics 5-9

Chapters 6, 7,9,10 (Skip pages 382-404) & 11

65 points, 70 questions  

Chapter 6: Interest Groups  

I. The Concept of Interest Groups  

∙ The formation and mobilization is the natural result of like minded individuals coming together to pursue a common goal  (Truman)  

∙ Interest Group: a group organized around a set of views or  preferences and who seek to influence others in order to promote or protect those preferences 

i. Not every group fits this description  

ii. Categorical groups: Red headed people and college  

students, share certain characteristics but have different  

What is rational?


∙ 1st basic requirement: shared interest  

∙ Excludes groups nonpolitical in nature  

i. Example: those who share interest in classical music  

ii. If the group demands that a rock radio station play Mozart  and Beethoven one hour a day then it is an interest group  ∙ Can engage in political action without involving the government  

∙ Getting the government involved has its advantages- such as  coercive power  

1. Interest Group Goals  

∙ 2 objectives:

i. Seek new positive benefits to promote the groups  


ii. They defend current benefits to protect the groups  

What is material benefit?


2. Interest Group Membership

∙ James Madison fully aware of interest groups in what he  called “Factions” in Federalist Number 10  We also discuss several other topics like Is it true when long-lived assets found on a company's balance sheet may include some that have no physical substance?

∙ Most Americans belong to some form of voluntary  

organization (79% in one study)  

i. May not be political interest but they can take stands on political issues  

∙ American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) is one of  the largest interest groups, 40 million members

II. Why People Join Interest Groups  

∙ Use rational choice behavioral models  

∙ People join/participate because it is rational to do so

∙ Rational: making choices that maximize benefits and minimize  cost  

1. The Benefits and Costs of Group Membership

∙ Benefits:

i. Material benefits

ii. Solidary benefits

iii. Purposive benefits

∙ Material Benefit: tangible rewards gained from  If you want to learn more check out What is cognitive dissonance theory?
Don't forget about the age old question of What is meant by production possibility frontier?

membership in an interest group  

i. Example: Joining AARP gives you discounts on life  

insurance  Don't forget about the age old question of What are the roles of money?

ii. Can be nonmonetary: safety provisions  

∙ Solidary Benefits: satisfaction gained from membership  in interest groups such as friendship and a sense of  

belonging to a group or meeting people with similar  


i. Example: farmers joining farm organization to socialize  ii. Companionship  

∙ Purposive Benefits: derive from feeling good about  contributing to a worthy cause in an effort to improve the  lot of society in general, not just the individual concerns of the group’s members  

i. Channel desire of members to improve the lot of society in general  

∙ All 3 of the benefits are not mutually exclusive, an interest  group can provide all 3  We also discuss several other topics like What are the three major forms of business organization?

∙ Most obvious cost of participating in an interest group is  membership dues  

∙ Collective action: time spent in meetings, in maintaining  the organization, and in planning/participating in activities  ∙ People join when benefits outweigh the cost  

2. Collective Action

∙ Olson: “it is not rational to join an interest group if the  benefit it produces is a public good”  

∙ Public Good: a benefit that is provided to everyone and  cannot be withheld from those who did not participate in  its provision  

∙ Free Rider: a person who makes the strictly rational  choice to enjoy the benefits of public goods without

incurring the cost of providing them, thus presenting a  

dilemma to the community as a whole  

∙ Collective Action: action in which a group of people work  together for the provision of public goods  

∙ Producing a public good requires organized collective group action, but each individual contribution is such a small part of the total cost that nonparticipation won’t be noticed  We also discuss several other topics like What is very important to the economy in indonesia?

3. Overcoming the Free Rider Problem

∙ Get the government to require membership  

i. Example: workers in some states are required to join a  union if a majority of the workers vote to let the union  

represent them

ii. This is called a union shop or closed shop  

iii. Federal law allows open shops so workers do not have  to join a union  

iv. Labor unions in open shop states weaker than those in  closed-shop states because of the free rider problem  

∙ Universities require students to pay fees to support student government and other organizations  

∙ Use peer pressure to persuade others to do their part in  achieving group goals, group can threaten to ostracize  

people who do not join  

i. More effective in small groups  

∙ Offer selective benefits is the most common approach  i. Selective Benefits: benefits provided by an interest  group that are available to members only 

III. The Origins and Growth of Interest Groups  

1. Theoretical Perspectives on the Formation of Interest Groups  A. Pluralist Theory  

o Pluralist explanation: idea that interest groups form  in reaction to problems created by particular social or  

economic events 

i. Natural extension of a democratic system that  

guarantees freedom of expression and association  

ii. Advocate David Truman, changes in political  

environment encourage formation of new groups  

iii. Problem: doesn’t explain how to overcome free rider  problem

B. By-Product Theory and Exchange Theory

o Formulated to deal with free rider problem  

o By product theory: theory that most people will not  engage in collective action with the sole aim of  

producing public goods. Instead, groups build

membership by offering selective benefits available only to group members  

i. Olson  

o Exchange Theory: theory that interest groups form as  a result of a deal- an exchange- between a group  entrepreneur and an unorganized interest that may be  underrepresented or not represented at all  

i. Robert Salisbury  

ii. Group entrepreneur: someone who invest  

resources to create and build an organization that  offers various types of benefits to entice others to  join the group  

o Exchange similar to by product in that they are both  based on rational actors: groups form because they  provide benefits only available to members that  

outweigh the cost  

o Exchange views interest groups as essentially suppliers  in a market  

C. Niche Theory  

o Population ecology and carrying capacity can be applied to interest groups  

o Political environment has certain carrying capacity to  support the interest groups that compete for its  

resources s

o Carrying capacity of environment can be expanded if its  partitioned into small niches  

o Explains the explosive growth of interest groups as the  partitioning of policy niches into segments representing  narrower and narrower interest to reduce direct  

completion among groups with similar goals

o Over the last decade, special interest groups have  become more centralized and membership involvement  is more distant  

i. Groups locate their headquarters in nation/state  capital and primary role of membership is to send  funds to a group of professionals whose full-time job  is advocacy of a relatively narrow agenda  

o Number of interest groups as grown, average number of members has declined (few exceptions)  

o Groups with national membership are smaller in scale  2. The Growth of Interest Groups

∙ Role of interest groups has expanded considerably

Total Spending on Lobbying in 2013- $3.18 billion  

5% 1% 1%






Agric./Energy/Nat Res


Educ/ Non-Profits/ Civil Servants/ Relig

Ideology/ Single- Issue

Lawyers & Lobbyists



interest are more prominent that others  

Total Lobby Group Registration in 2013 = 22,382

2% 2%







Agric./Energy/Nat Res


Educ/ Non-Profits/ Civil Servants/ Relig

Ideology/ Single- Issue

Lawyers & Lobbyists




ess interests are more dominant

∙ Only a small number of issues attract the attention of large number of groups presenting different opposing views  

∙ Groups successfully stake out their own little niche  

partitioned from other groups  

∙ Group influence tends to be greatest on issues that attract  little attention and controversy because there is no one to  present an opposing point of view

∙ Most common type of group influence occurs on small,  noncontroversial issues where only one perspective is  

presented and that are outside the view of the media and  most citizens  

∙ Singe Issue Groups: groups that take positions and are  active on only one specific issue (abortion, guns, LGBT,  etc.)  

i. Critics complain that they undermine the democratic  process  

ii. Others say they provide a different type of  


∙ Rise of “think tanks” that blur the line between research  and advocacy

i. Traditionally, think tanks have been institutions  

dedicated to the scholarly examination of policy issues

ii. New generation= much more ideological and partisan  and much more aggressive in trying to influence policy  


IV. Interest Group Resources and Activities  

∙ Source of power can be divided into 2 broad categories: political  resources and political tactics  

1. Political Resources  

∙ Political resources are the tools interest groups have at  their disposal to influence the political process  

(membership, money, leadership, and expertise)  

A. Membership

o Most basic political resource  

o Sheer size can provide muscle in the political arena  

i. Those that can provide voters to back candidates  

have an advantage over those that cannot  

o Geographical distribution of members important

i. Those with members spread out over the entire  

country are more likely to have an advantage  

o Status of groups membership is also important  

i. Social status (Physicians and Scientist are highly  


B. Money  

o Most popularly recognized  

o Money is a tool, not a guarantee  

o Not how much money a group has, but what they do  with it  

C. Leadership and Expertise

o Most important source

o With dynamic and forceful leadership, a small group can be as effective as a much larger and well-financed  group that lacks such leadership  

2. Political Tactics  

∙ Tactics are the way groups use their political resources to  achieve goals  

∙ In order to influence policy, groups need access to official  decision makers  

∙ Lobbying: activity of a group or person that attempts to  influence public policymaking on behalf of the individual or  the group  

A. Professional Lobbyist  

o Lobbyist: individuals whose job it is to contact and  attempt to influence governmental officials on behalf of  others  

o Often work for several clients  

o Large lobbying firms hire lobbyist from both political  parties to increase access for whomever their client  might be  

o Former members of congress are highly sought after to  become lobbyist

i. More lobbyist come from the executive branch  B. Direct and Indirect Lobbying

o Direct Lobbying: direct contact by lobbyist with  government officials in an effort to influence policy  i. Routinely appear before committees

ii. One-on-one contact with individual representatives is considered more effective  

o Indirect Lobbying: The use of intermediaries by  lobbyists to speak to government officials, with the  intent to influence policy  

i. Draw on a group’s membership

ii. Members of congress take note of letters, phone  calls, and emails  

iii. Inform voters about a legislators’ positions and votes rather than informing the legislator about voter  


iv. Have group members talk to politicians when they  are back home campaigning/visiting, having group  members who are visiting Washington call on their  legislators, and holding a conference in the capital  

v. Stage dramatic demonstration in Washington  o Interest groups have report cards on how legislators  vote  

C. Coalition Building  

o Coalition Building: means of expanding an interest  group’s influence that involves working with other  groups  

i. Indirect lobbying that signals to politicians that a  particular issue is of concern to more than just an  isolated segment of the public  

o Focus on common and overlapping interest

o Logrolling: the exchange of support on issues between individuals or groups in order to gain mutual advantage  i. “You support me on my issue and ill support you on  yours”  

D. Shaping Public Opinion

o Make people sympathetic to the cause and persuade  them to convey their thoughts to those in office  o Example: Have doctors relay info to patients (patients  respect their doctors and will listen to them)  

o Use well regarded experts or trusted figures  o Most powerful way to shape public opinion is through  mass media, also television  

E. Campaign Support

o The most basic support interest groups can provide  o Support takes many forms: giving financial  

contributions, providing information for political  speeches and audiences to hear the speeches, featuring favorable coverage in the organizations newsletter, and  helping get voters registered at the poles  

o Dangers in supporting candidates: group has had too  much influence if the candidate loses

o Groups lend money to multiple candidates and to both  major political parties  

F. Lobbying in Court  

o Court decisions are binding public policies about who  gets what  

o Filing test cases and filing amicus curiae briefs  o Test case: lawsuit filed to test the constitutionality of  some government policy

i. Example: Brown v Board of Education the NAACP  

provided the Brown family money to take the case to  

the Supreme Court  

o Amicus Curiae Brief: legal brief filed by someone or  some organization who holds an interest in a case but is not an actual party  

i. “friend of the court”  

ii. Plaintiff and the defendant each file legal briefs on  

how the case should be decided  

V. The Power and Regulation of Interest Groups

∙ Interest groups are a natural byproduct of a free and open  democratic process  

∙ Core principle of political freedom being put into practice  ∙ Group activity contributes to greater democratic responsiveness  ∙ Unintentional mobilization: peoples involvement in interest  

groups allows them to gain experience in political participation  ∙ Many may seek to advance their agendas by suppressing the  preferences of others  

1. Interest Group Power and Influence  

∙ Well-organized, well-financed groups have enough political  power to influence policy decisions  

∙ Active minority usually runs the organization  

∙ Operation of interest groups not governed by checks and  balances  

∙ Corporations and labor unions have been prohibited from  making campaign contributions directly to candidates  

i. Use political action committees to get around this ban ∙ Political Action Committees (PACs): organizations  specifically created to raise money and make political  

contributions on behalf of an interest group  

∙ Negative: growth of non-connected PACs who operate on  behalf of strongly ideological and single issue groups  

i. Emergence of Independent expenditure only  

committees has magnified these concerns  

∙ 3 types of PACs: Super PACs, 527 groups, and 501 (c)  groups

∙ Super PAC: type of political committee that can raise  unlimited sums of money from corporations, unions,  

associations, and wealthy individuals to independently  

support or oppose political candidates. Unlike traditional  PACs, Super PACs many not contribute directly to or  

coordinate with political candidates’ campaigns

∙ 527 groups: tax-exempt organizations that can raise and  spend unlimited amounts of money to influence elections.  They can engage in voter mobilization and issue advocacy, but they cannot expressly advocate the election or defeat  

of a federal candidate  

∙ 501 (c) groups: tax exempt organizations that can raise  and spend unlimited amounts of money to promote “social  welfare” They may advocate for or against candidates, but  political activities cannot become their primary purpose.  They can keep their donors and names of members a  secret 

∙ can create the impression that the political process is for  sale to the highest bidder  

∙ there is no direct connection between money and votes  ∙ little evidence of group lobbyist pressuring policy makers  to do something they do not want to do  

∙ groups defending the status quo have a huge advantage  over those pushing for new benefits  

2. Regulation of Interest Group Activity  

∙ Only lightly regulated  

∙ 2 restrictions:

i. Limits on the kinds of activities in which interest groups  may engage

ii. Requirements that lobbyist and organizations disclose  their identity and certain basic facts about their  


iii. Both have been ineffective  

∙ Bribery is illegal but hard to enforce  

∙ Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA): 1971 act that  allowed unions and corporations to form political action  committees to raise and contribute campaign funds to  candidates  

i. Limited individual contribution to $1000 and  

corporations to $5000

ii. Placed limit on how much a candidate could spend  ∙ Hard money: campaign contributions made directly to  candidates and regulated by the law 

∙ Soft money: campaign contributions given to political  parties rather than directly to candidates  

∙ Contributions had to be reported and campaign spending  by interest groups and political parties

∙ Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA): law that  limits hard- money contributions during each election cycle to $2000 from individuals and $5000 from PACs  

i. McCain- Feingold Act for its main senator sponsors  

ii. Main target is soft money  

iii. Restricts “issue ads” that run immediately before  


iv. Encouraged the formation of 527 groups  

∙ Citizen’s United v Federal Election Commission: 2010 supreme court case holding that a provision of the McCain Feingold Act prohibiting corporations and unions from  

broadcasting “electioneering communications” within 60  

days of a general election is an unconstitutional limitation  on the 1st amendment guarantee of free speech. Also held  that corporations and labor unions can spend unlimited  

amounts of money in campaigns  

i. You can spend unlimited amounts of money  

Chapter 7: Political Parties  

I. The Concept of Political Parties  

1. The Challenge of Defining American Political Parties  

∙ Difficult deciding what exactly is being studied  

∙ Federalist 10:

i. Faction  

ii. Interest: most durable source of factions  

iii. Parties  

∙ Political party: organization that nominates and runs  candidates for public office under its own label 

i. win government offices

ii. enact policies favored by the party

∙ Teams competing for political power- Anthony Downs  

i. “parties formulate policies in order to win elections,  

rather than win elections in order to formulate  


2. Comparison of Political Parties and Other Political Groupings ∙ Similar to interest groups

i. Organizations that engage in political action to  

achieve policy goals  

∙ Differences from Interest Groups:

i. Most important: Parties use fundamentally different  

methods to influence the political process

1. Interest groups do not nominate and run  

candidates for office. They lobby and use other  


ii. Political parties address a broad range of issues  

1. Interest groups have narrower interest

iii. Interest groups are private organizations  

1. Private groups can establish membership  


∙ Parties differ from factions  

∙ Faction refers to an informal group that is part of a larger  political entity  

i. Segment within a political party; synonymous with  “wing” or “division”  

3. Membership in American Political Parties

∙ Most Americans do not formally join a political party and pay  dues  

∙ 3 distinct elements associated with different activities: i. Party in the electorate  

ii. Party in the government

iii. Party organization  

∙ Party in the electorate: the component of a political party  that is made up of the people in the public who identify with a political party  

i. Ordinary citizens  

∙ Party in the government: the component of a political  party that is made up of elected and appointed government  officeholders who are associated with a political party  

∙ Party Organization: the component of a political party that  is composed of the party professionals who hold official  positions in the party  

i. Less professional party officials  

4. Incentives for Associating with Political Parties  

∙ Material benefits, solidary benefits, and purposive benefits  (Similar to interest groups)  

∙ 2 major categories based on peoples primary motivation: i. Party Professionals: incentives are primarily  

material and social 

1. Emphasis on winning elections  

2. Understand the importance of compromise  

ii. Policy-Motivated Activist: incentives are primarily  purposive and social. Dedicated to implementing  

certain principles in public polices, and they are less  willing to compromise hose principles than are party  professionals.

1. Less concerned with using political parties to  

further their interest

2. Want to use political parties to help other  

individuals or groups  

3. Prefer to be on the winning side but would  

rather support a loser who shares their same  


4. Less willing to compromise  

∙ Material incentives: tangible awards- patronage jobs and  government contracts  

∙ Political Machine: Political organization characterized by a  reciprocal relationship between voters and officeholders.  Political support is given in exchange for government jobs and services. Headed by “party boss”, political machines and  party bosses maintain their power and control over  

government offices with techniques such as control over  nominations, patronage, graft and bribery, vote buying, and  election-rigging.  

II. Two- Party Competition In American Politics  

∙ Role theory: behavioral model of politics based on the  assumption that human beings have a psychological need for  predictability in their relations with each other 

1. The General Types of Party Systems  

∙ One party, two parties, multiple parties  

∙ One Party System: representatives of one political party hold  all or almost all of the major offices in government  

∙ Multiparty System: 3 or more political parties effectively  compete for political office, and no one party can win control of  all 

i. Common in parliamentary systems in which  

legislature chooses the leaders of the executive  


ii. Ruling coalitions  

iii. Germany, Japan, and Israel

∙ Two-Party System: two political parties have realistic chance of controlling the major offices of government 

i. Fewer than 30% of the worlds democracies  

ii. Only 6 of 21 demographic nations have 2 parties  

2. American Party Competition at the National Level  

∙ Republicans successful 59% of elections and Democrats 41% ∙ Competition every 2 years for congress is even closer  i. Democrats won control of House and Senate 34  

times since 1856

ii. Republicans 31 elections  

iii. In 13 elections republicans controlled one and  

democrats the other  

∙ Only 4 close elections:

i. Warren Harding

ii. Franklin Roosevelt  

iii. Lyndon Johnson  

iv. Richard Nixon

2. Reasons for the National Two-Party System  

A. Historical Factors

oEarly division of political loyalties into 2 broad groups  oFederalist: people who relied on trade (manufactures,  merchants)  

1. Business and commercial interest  

2. Along northern coast  

oAnti-federalist: those who did not rely on trade (subsistence  farmers, artisans, and mechanics)  

oDemocrat Republicans represented agricultural interest 1. South and interior  

oIncreasing urbanization and industrialization of the south  and west began to erode the sectionalism  

1. Result development of class politics  

B. Electoral Rules  

oElectoral rules are seldom neutral ; they almost always favor some interests over others  

o Proportional Representation: method of selecting  representatives in which representation is given to political  parties based on the proportion of the vote obtained. This  method has the effect of encouraging multiple parties.  

o Single-member district plurality (SMDP) system: a  method of selecting representatives in which a nation or  state is divided into separate election districts and voters in  each district choose one representative. The candidate in  each district with a plurality of the vote wins the seat. This  method tends to hinder the development of third parties.  

1. Winner take all that makes it hard for minor parties to  win  

o Duvergers’s Law: The tendency for the single-member  district plurality system to favor a two-party system, as  documented by French sociologist Maruice Duverger 

oDemocracies using a winner take all method are more likely  to have a two- party system while proportional systems are  more likely to have multiparty systems

o Parliamentary System: an electoral system in which the  party holding the majority of seats in the legislature selects  the chief executive  

1. Encourages multiple parties  

2. Party that controls majority of legislative seats  

chooses the chief executive (prime minister)  

o Presidential System: a political system in which the chief  executive and the legislature are elected independently  1. Candidate must receive a majority of electoral votes  oState laws regulating access to the ballot are considerable  obstacle to minor parties  

1. Must satisfy state laws  

oPublic financing of presidential campaigns benefits the major parties  

C. Natural Perpetuation of the Two-Party System  

oPeople develop an attachment to a political party at an early age  

oChannels political conflict into 2 major outlets: Organization  in power and the one out of power  

3. Minor Political Parties

∙ Third Parties: minor political parties that periodically appear  but have little success in winning office  

∙ 1990’s Ross Perot  

∙ Benefit of political parties: Very good at organizing elections and  supporting campaigns for public office  

A. Goals and Types of Minor Parties  

oSocialist Party: advocated public ownership of basic  industries  

1. Biggest vote getter  

oSocialist Labor Party: seeks to eliminate the capitalist system through essentially peaceful means  

1. Has been the longest lived  

oCommunist Party: close ties to Soviet Union

1. Electoral forays have been sporadic and uniformly  hopeless  

oThe most successful minor parties have protested economic  injustices  

oPopulist: free and unlimited coinage of silver, graduated  income tax, public ownership of railroads, an expansion of  the money supply

oProgressives: (most successful) attacks on the abuses of  both economic and political power, government regulation of monopolies, adoption of direct democracy reforms such as  initiative, referendum, and recall

o2nd Progressive Movement: focused on farmer and echoed  the earlier populist movement  

oStates’ Rights Democratic Party (Dixiecrat Party)  

oAmerican Independent Party

B. Effects of Minor Parties  

o Most successful: Theodore Roosevelt’s run as a Progressive  in 1912

oSignificance lies in their effect on the other two parties  oHave played a major role in deciding who gets the electoral  votes of particular states  

oCan help shape the policy orientation of the major parties  oHave had more of a lasting effect by helping shape the  composition of major parties  

III. What Political Parties Do  

∙ 4 major contributions political parties make in democratic  government:  

i. Facilitate participation of large numbers of people

ii. Promote government responsiveness

iii. Promote government accountability

iv. Promote stability and the peaceful resolution of conflict  1. Facilitate Participation

∙ Political parties reduce cost (time and effort into researching  candidates and policies) by doing the research and sorting out of  the issues ahead of time

A. Aggregating Interest

o Intermediaries between citizens and government  

o Put together set of broad interest for selfish reasons  

o Aggregate individual preferences into coherent policy  agendas  

o Aggregating diverse interests into a party coalition helps  ordinary people participate in politics in a meaningful way  B. Simplifying Alternatives  

o Facilitate participation by simplifying alternatives for voters o The limited choice in candidates reduces the amount of  information necessary to decide which candidate is most  likely to serve their interest  

C. Stimulating Interest in Politics and Government  

o Campaign activities facilitate participation by stimulating  interest in politics  

2. Promote Government Responsiveness  

∙ Government must be responsive to the demands of ordinary  citizens  

∙ Parties serve as the basis for organizing and operating the  national government

3. Promote Government Accountability

∙ Parties act as agents of accountability  

4. Promote Stability and Peaceful Resolution of Conflict

∙ The pursuit and maintenance of political power by peaceful  means and the peaceful transfer of power into other hands  5. The Responsible Party Model  

∙ Responsible Party Model: a concept that describes  democracies with competitive parties in which one party wins  control of the government based on its policy proposals, enacts  those proposals once it is in control and stands or falls in the  next election based on its performance in delivering on its  promises  

∙ Party Discipline: requiring political party members in public  office to promote or carry out the party’s agenda and punishing  those who do not  

∙ Divided Government: when one party controls the presidency  and the other controls congress  

i. Makes it hard for voters to assign responsibility and hold  officials accountable  

IV. The Strength of Political Parties  

∙ Potential of political parties to fulfill broader democratic functions depends on their viability  

∙ Party Decline thesis rests on several pieces of evidence:  i. The electorates attachment to political parties is not as  strong as it once was

ii. The central role of parties in the electoral process has been eclipsed by the rise of candidate-centered campaigns in  which a candidates electoral chances rest heavily on his or  her personal organization rather than on the party’s  

iii. Party voting in congress occurs less frequently than it once  did  

iv. Party organizations no longer have the power to determine  who runs under their party’s label  

1. The Strength of Party in the Electorate  

∙ 3 indicators for the electorate becoming less partisan: i. A decline in the percentage of the electorate referring to  themselves as strong partisans

ii. An increase in the percentage of the electorate calling  themselves independents  

iii. A decline in straight-ticket voting (Voting for the same  party’s candidates for president and congress)  

∙ Martin Wattenberg “political parties are less relevant to voters  than they once were”

i. Influenced by issues and candidate image

∙ Rise in the number of independents  

i. Leaners are those that say they are independents but lean  in the direction of republican or democrat  

ii. not true independents because they will vote for the  Republican or Democrat candidate on occasions  

∙ Scale: Strong Democrats, Weak Democrats, independents, weak  Republicans, strong Republicans  

∙ Straight-Ticket Voters: people who vote for the same party’s  candidates for both president and congress  

2. The Strength of Party in Government  

∙ Some have found evidence of decline of party in government  i. Rise of divided government  

ii. Decline in party voting in Congress  

∙ Strength of party in government depends on the strength of  partisanship in the electorate  

∙ Some see divided government as a symptom of weak parties  i. Could result from two competitive parties with different  strengths  

∙ Party Vote: a vote in which a majority of Democrats vote on one side and a majority of Republicans vote on the other  ∙ Party Polarization: a distribution of preferences in which party  means diverge toward opposite poles with little or no overlap in  the center  

∙ Conditional Party government: when member of the majority  party caucus in Congress achieve consensus on policy issues,  they adopt reforms that strengthened party leaders’ ability to  

promote party unity to enact the party’s legislative agenda which there is a consensus  

∙ 1980s and 1990s republican takeover of the senate and the  election of Ronald Reagan  

3. The Strength of Party Organizations  

∙ Modern party organizations have considerably less power than  the political machines that once controlled politics in numerous  cities and states  

∙ Numerous cities and Nebraska adopted nonpartisan elections  ∙ Political Patronage: the giving of government jobs to people  based on their party affiliation and loyalty  

∙ Merit System: system of governing in which jobs are given  based on relevant technical expertise and the ability to preform  ∙ Direct Primary: the selection of a political party’s candidate for  the general election by vote of ordinary citizens

∙ Modern party organizations are alive and well although they  differ from old political machines  

4. Cycles of Party Strength

∙ Rise and fall in cycles over time  

∙ Have adapted to changes in the political landscape  

Chapter 9: Public Opinion and Political Socialization  

I. The Concept of Public Opinion  

∙ Public Opinion: the sum of individual attitudes or beliefs about  an issue or question  

∙ a complex concept  

∙ basic elements: direction, stability, intensity, salience

1. Direction

∙ Direction: the idea of public opinion being either positive or  negative (Favorable or unfavorable) on an issue 

∙ On some issues, no clear direction (Example: abortion)  2. Stability

∙ Stability: The likelihood of changes in the direction of public  opinion 

∙ Strong pro-choice and pro-life attitudes have remained  relatively stable in the U.S. population for the last quarter century  

∙ Turnaround in public opinion on same sex marriage  

i. Reversed in a decade  

∙ Supreme Court has ruled that the Constitution protects the  right for gay and lesbians to marry  

∙ Reversal of opinion on social issues is rare  

3. Intensity  

∙ Intensity: how strongly people hold beliefs or attitudes that  comprise public opinion  

∙ Low intensity tends to make public opinion less table  

∙ Public opinion on issues where large numbers of people have  intensely held views tends to be more stable  

4. Salience

∙ Salience: the prominence or visibility of an issue or question  and how important the issue is to the public  

∙ Economy and crime consistently show up as two of the most  important issues  

∙ Issues gain more salience if there is a great deal of media  attention or political debate

∙ Public opinion needs to have a clear direction and reflect high  levels of intensity, be stable across a reasonable period of  time, and concern an issue f high salience  

∙ Concurrence of all 4 elements is rare  

∙ Public opinion can often create difficult choices for leaders  II. The Competence of Public Opinion  

∙ George Gallup endorses a delegate model of representatives democracy: idea that the job of elected leaders is to make  decisions solely based on the views of the majority of the people  ∙ Walter Lippmann expressed the contrary view  

i. Unless citizens were well informed, public opinion could  be manipulated  

ii. Trustee System of Democracy: Idea that the job of  elected leaders is to make decisions based on their own  expertise and judgement, and not just make decisions  

based on the wishes and preferences of constituents  

∙ People often express strong opinions on issues yet have little  factual information  

∙ John Zaller “most people aren’t sure what their opinions are on  most political matters”  

∙ Push Poll: type of public opinion poll that intentionally uses  leading or biased questions in order to manipulate the response  III. Elite Opinion And Issue Publics  

∙ Public opinion can be reasonably judged as informed and reliable in 2 basic ways, both involving the opinions of smaller, more  select groups rather than of the public as a whole  

∙ Elite Opinion: the attitudes or beliefs of those people with  influential positions within society  

∙ Opinions of some can help shape the opinions of others  ∙ Divide opinions by issue  

∙ Issue Public: section of the public with a strong interest in a  particular issue  

∙ Polls can serve a positive democratic purpose by prodding  politicians into making a better case for their policy agendas  IV. Interpreting Public Opinion Polls  

∙ Basic Question to ask:

i. Did the poll ask the right people?

ii. What is the margin of error?

iii. What was the question?

iv. Which question came first?  

1. Did the Poll Ask the Right People?

∙ When a poll finds that a certain percentage of Americans are  for or against something, that percentage is an estimate

∙ Select a small group of people, called a sample  

∙ Random Sample: method of selecting a sample (subset of  population) in which every person in the target population has an equal chance of being selected  

i. Possible to a reasonably accurate assessment of the  

opinions and attitudes of the nation  

∙ Biased Sample: a group of poll respondents that does not  accurately represent the target population and provides  inaccurate estimates of true opinions and attitudes of the  target population  

i. Radio and tv surveys  

∙ Straw Polls: unscientific polls based on nonrandom samples  i. “man on the street” interviews and mail-in surveys  

placed in magazines  

2. What is the Margin of Error?

∙ Margin of Error: The amount that sample responses are  likely to differ from those of the population within very tight  boundaries that are known as the confidence level  

∙ Reputable and reliable surveys always report a margin of error ∙ The larger the random sample, the smaller the margin of error ∙ Confidence Level: the chance, measured in percent, that  

results of a survey will fall within the boundaries set by the  margin of error  

∙ Table 9.1

3. What was the Question?  

∙ How the question was worded and structure  

∙ Instrumentation: the process of designing survey  


4. Which Question Came First?  

∙ Are asked a question and express support then reluctant to  back away from that position  

∙ Critical to get answers for the first two questions (random  sample was used and what margin of error is it)  

V. The Bases of Public Opinion  

∙ Central theoretical models usually assume opinions are more  systematic  

∙ Rational choice theories are of little help because they take  preferences  

∙ Use behavioral or social-psychological approaches  

i. Suggest our attitudes and opinions are products of our  environment  

∙ 3 broad categories: political culture, ideology, and political  socialization

∙ Evidence that beliefs can be hereditary  

1. Political Culture

∙ Political Culture: a set of shared beliefs that includes broad  agreement about basic political values, agreement about the  legitimacy of political institutions, and general acceptance of  the process government uses to make policy  

∙ People share a general sense of how outcomes should be  achieved and what those outcomes should not include  ∙ Most Americans have strong “tribal loyalty” to the political  system  

2. Ideology  

∙ Ideology: a consistent set of values, attitudes, and beliefs  about the appropriate role of government  

i. Gives people preferences about issues even if they have  no individual stake in them  

ii. Example: Heterosexuals having strong opinions about  same sex marriage and males having strong opinions  about abortion rights  

∙ Some argue ideology is an outgrowth of national traditions  and political culture  

∙ Others argue it is a product of electoral systems, group  interest, historical events, religious beliefs, family background, life experience, or a combination  

3. Political Socialization

∙ Political Socialization: the process through which a younger generation learns political values from previous generation  ∙ Agents of political socialization:

i. Family

ii. Schools

iii. Peers

iv. Events

v. Experiences

vi. Media  

∙ Life long process  

A. Family

o Most influential agent and exercises a major effect during  the individuals most impressionable years  

B. Schools

o Major difference in schools and families is that schools  have less influence on fundamental political orientations  such as ideology and partisanship  

o Learn to salute the flag, recite the pledge, sing patriotic  songs, and honor nation heroes

 Promotes democratic attributes  

o Post-secondary education exposes young adults to political and cultural diversity  

C. Peers

o Depends on how important political concerns are within the group, the extend of agreement on such matters among  

group members, and how closely an individual identifies  

with the group  

o Can also be shaped by groups which they do not belong  o Reference Groups: groups that influence the political  attitudes of non-group members  

 White liberal may identify with the National  

Association for the Advancement of Colored  


D. Events and Experiences  

o Someone who is mugged is unlikely to be convinced by  statistics that crime rate is declining  

o Example: 9/11 and George Bush  

E. The Mass Media  

o Television is still the most important source of political  


o Scholars believe media shape public opinion in a negative  way  

o Help create shared perceptions of social trends  

4. Biological Models of Public Opinion  

∙ Argue that attitudes and opinions have a genetic component  ∙ Twins are an excellent basis for trying to sort out whether  genes shape opinions and beliefs  

∙ Your genes influence opinions in combination with the  


VI. Public Opinion and Participation  

∙ Political Participation: the translation of personal preference  into a voluntary action designed to influence public policy  i. Process of turning an opinion into a direct contribution  ∙ Not all people participate equally  

∙ Voting rates of particular groups can determine election  outcomes  

Chapter 10: Elections (Page 342-382)

I. The Concept of Elections

∙ Election: A collective decision-making process in which citizens  choose an individual to hold and exercise the powers of public

office. Elections are the primary mechanism that representative  democracies use to achieve popular sovereignty.  

i. 2 steps: nomination and general election  

∙ Nomination: the process through which political parties winnow  down a field of candidates to a single one who will be the party’s  standard bearer in the election 

∙ General Election: the process by which voters choose their  representatives from among the parties’ nominees  

II. Methods of Nominating Candidates  

∙ William Magear “Boss” Tweed, “I don’t care who does the  electing as long as I do the nominating”  

∙ 3 methods of nominating candidates

i. Legislative caucus

ii. Conventions  

iii. Direct primaries  

1. Legislative Caucus

∙ Caucuses: a meeting of members of a political party  i. Races for local offices, state legislatures, and even the  House presented no great difficulty

∙ Selecting candidates for statewide offices presented more of a  challenge  

i. Initial solution: legislative caucus  

∙ Legislative Caucus: A method of selecting political party  candidates that calls for party members in the state legislature  to select candidates for statewide office and party members in  the House of Representatives to select party’s candidates for  president and vice president  

i. Problems: violated the separation of powers and party  activist who were not members of Congress had no voice in choosing the party’s nominee for president  

2. Convention  

∙ National Party Convention: A nomination method in which  delegates selected from each state attend a national party  meeting to choose the party’s candidates for president and vice  president  

i. Democratic Party under Andrew Jackson, first to use  

national convention  

3. Direct Primary  

∙ Allows voters to choose party nominees for public office  ∙ Voters have an indirect role- they choose the delegates who  choose the nominee  

∙ Closed Primaries: Elections to choose a party’s nominees for  the general election that are open only to party members

∙ Open Primaries: elections to select a party’s candidate for the  general election that are open to independents and, in some  cases, to members of other parties  

∙ Increase the influence of rank-and-file voters at the expense of  party leaders  

∙ Proponents of Open Primaries:

i. More democratic, allow all interested people to participate  ii. Closed primaries are infringing on citizens ability to  

participate in the electoral process

∙ Defenders of Closed Primaries:

i. Participation of independents may undermine a party’s  chances by supporting candidates who are unacceptable to most party members  

ii. In open primaries, supporters of the opposing party can  cross over and try and get the weak candidate nominated  III. Nominating Presidential Candidates

1. The Allocation of National Convention Delegates  

∙ Amount of delegates each state can send depends on: state  population and support for the party’s candidates  

∙ Large states get more delegates than small states  

i. California most populous

ii. Wyoming and Vermont least  

∙ States get more delegates if they have a history of supporting  their candidates  

2. The Method and Timing of Delegate Selection

∙ State law determine the method state parties use to select  delegates  

i. Open vs closed

ii. Date when the parties select delegates  

∙ The parties select national convention delegates in 2 ways: i. Caucus Method: by permitting the state conventions to  select representatives from their states (chosen at state  conventions)  

ii. State Presidential Primary: in which the voters directly  elect delegates  

∙ Increasing trend in using primaries  

∙ Shift in power has an effect on nomination campaigns: i. Nomination calendar is now critically important  

∙ Frontloading: the tendency of states to move their primaries  earlier in the season in order to gain more influence over the  presidential selection process  

i. Consequences: candidates must lay the ground work early  to have any chance at success & they must raise a lot of

money early on & the shortened time “degrades campaign  quality”  

3. The Nomination Campaign  

∙ Magic Number: the number of delegates needed at a political  party’s national convention for a candidate to be nominated as  the party’s candidate for president; this number equals 50% plus one of all delegates at the convention  

∙ Sitting presidents running for reelection typically have few  challengers for the nomination  

∙ Sitting Vice Presidents are viewed as “heir apparent” and draw  little opposition  

∙ 4 phases of presidential nomination campaigns:

i. Invisible primary

ii. Initial contests

iii. Mist clearing  

iv. Convention  

A. Invisible Primary

o Invisible Primary: the period of time between the  election of one president and the first contest to nominate  candidates to run in the general election to select the next  president  

 Takes place largely behind the scenes  

o Serves to sort out and begin solidifying the field of serious  contenders who will wage the battle for delegates  

o Money is a huge indicator of who will emerge as a major  contender  

o Super PAC’s play a huge role  

o Polls ask voters whom they would like to see win their  party’s presidential nomination  

o Endorsements from key members of the party  


 Federal and state elected officials

 Member of the traditional party organization  

 Celebrities  

 Interest group leaders

 Party activist  

B. Initial Contests  

o 2nd phase of nomination campaign consist of Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire Primary (important because they  are first)  

C. Mist Clearing  

o Begins after the two initial contest but does not have a  precise duration

o Characterized by a reduction in uncertainty as weaker  candidates are shifted out in the contests that occur in the  following weeks

o Attention focuses on 2 or 3 major contenders  

o Super Tuesday: the day in early march when several  states hold primaries. These states choose a significant  portion of delegates to the national convention  

o Frontloading has tended to shorten the mist-clearing stage  o The accumulation of delegates is the most important  indicator of success during this state  

o Democratic Party rules require proportional allocation of  convention delegates (minimum 15% threshold)  

 Candidates who do not come in first still get  

some delegates  

o Attention is shifted to delegate counts  

D. The National Convention

o Composed of delegates selected in the state primaries and  caucuses

o Some argue that conventions have become little more than “marketing devices for the parties, the candidates and the  issues and images they want to sell the public in the  

general election”  

o Conventions major functions:

 *Officially nominate party’s candidate for  

President and VP*

 Approve a platform for the nominees to run on

 Provide a mechanism to encourage the losing  

candidates and disparate party factions to  

unify for the general election

 Showcase the party and its candidates on  

national tv and create a favorable image with  

the public

 Adopt rules/regulations to govern the party at  

the convention and in the interim between  


o Party unity  

o The party with the most harmonious convention has been  victorious over a party with a more contentious convention  o Unit Rule: a rule that permitted a majority of state’s  delegation to a political party’s national convention to  

require that the entire state delegation vote the same way  (or as a unit)  

IV. Electing the President  

∙ The electoral college is unique to the American political system

1. The Electoral College

∙ President is not chosen by the national popular vote ∙ 51 separate elections to choose slates of partisan electors  ∙ Electors choose the president according to rules and procedures  specified in the constitution  

∙ Electoral College: the institution (whose members are selected by whatever means the state legislature chooses) that is  responsible for selecting the president of the United States  i. Not democratic  

ii. Founders distrusted ordinary citizens to choose the president  iii. Seen as a way to solve the communication(citizens obtaining  the right information) problem but still give citizens indirect  influence  

A. How the Electoral College Works

o Each state legislature chooses a number of electors equal  to its total number of senators and House Members   Members of the House and others who hold national  office are not eligible to serve as electors  

o Minimum number of electoral votes a state can have is 3  California has 55 electoral votes  

 Total number is 538

o If no president receives a majority of the votes then the  House, voting by states, chooses the president among the  top three candidates  

 Each state has one vote  

 Candidate must receive 26 votes, a majority to be elected o If no vice presidential candidate receives a majority of  electoral votes, then the Senate, voting as individuals,  elects the VP from among the highest 3 candidates   Each state has one vote  

 Candidate must receive 26 votes  

 If no one receives the majority, the senate votes for one  of the two highest candidates  

o States nominate a slate of partisan electors  

o The voting in November decides actually decides on who  gets to be an elector  

o Electors do not exercise independent judgment  

B. How the Electoral College Violates Core Democratic Principles  o Violates political equality and has the potential to violate  majority rule  

o For political quality to be achieved in the electoral college,  each state’s percentage of electoral votes must equal its  percentage of the population

o Number of representatives in House and Senate  determines how many electoral votes a state has   Result: gives smallest states more voting weight and the  

largest less voting weight relative to their populations  o Vote count more in some states than others  

 In most cases all of the state’s electoral votes go to the  candidate who wins the plurality of the popular votes   Those voters who supported a losing candidate are not  represented in the electoral college  

o Election of the president by the House when no candidate  receives the majority also violates political equality  o Electoral college does not ensure that the majority will rule   5 examples of presidents who did not have majority rule:  John Quincy Adams

 Rutherford B. Hayes

 Benjamin Harrison  

 John Kennedy  

 George W. Bush  

o Electoral votes are allocated on a winner take all basis  C. Proposals to Reform the Electoral College

o 3 basic plans:

 The proportional plan

 The district plan

 The direct popular election plan  

o Proportional Plan: The number of electoral college votes  given to candidates would be based on the proportion of  popular votes they obtained  

 Example: Candidate receiving 60% of popular vote in a  state would receive 60% of electoral votes  

 Stay the same: requiring a majority of electoral votes for  a candidate to be elected and the House would still  choose if there was no majority  

 Does a better job of weighting votes equally, but this  usually sends the election to the House  

o District Plan: Distribute a state’s electoral college votes  by giving one vote to the candidate who wins a plurality in  each House district and two votes to the winner statewide  

o Either of these reforms could be implemented without  amending the Constitution

 Constitution says state legislatures can choose the  electors how the wish  

 Prevents equal weighting of votes

o Direct Popular Election Plan: proposal to abolish the  electoral college and elect the president directly by  national popular vote  

 Would require a constitutional amendment to abolish the  electoral college  

o Electoral College Advantages: preserves the principle of  federalism and that is the bedrock of American political  system, promotes stable 2-party system

2. The Campaign  

∙ Strategy and money are important components  

∙ Swing States: states in which the outcome of a presidential  race is unclear and both candidates have a realistic chance at  winning 

∙ Candidate focus on states that have large blocks of electoral  votes, highly competitive, or both  

∙ General election has tight time limits  

i. 10 weeks  

3. Financing the Presidential Election

∙ Historically, restrictions on contributions to presidential elections  have been ineffective  

∙ Candidates and political parties have found loop holes for  congress’s laws by channeling money through intermediaries and political action committees (PACS)  

∙ Presidential campaign fiancé is regulated by the Federal Election  Campaign Act (FECA) Key provisions include:

i. Public financing of presidential campaigns and overall  expenditure limits

ii. Contribution limits for candidates who accept public financing  iii. Public disclosure requirements  

iv. Creation of FEC to enforce law

∙ Candidates become eligible for public funds as soon as they raise at least $5,000 in contributions of $250 or less in each of 20  states for a total of $10,000

∙ Once qualified they receive public funds on a dollar-for-dollar  basis for the first $250 received from an individual  

∙ Hard money or soft money

∙ Contribution limits established by FECA apply to hard money –  money given expressly support or oppose a candidate  ∙ Did not regulate soft money- contributions given to party  organizations rather than to individual candidates  

∙ McCain-Feingold Act addressed soft money, contained many  loopholes

Chapter 11: Political Participation and Voting Behavior  

I. The Concept of Political Participation

∙ Political Participation: the translation of personal preference  into a voluntary action designed to influence public policy  i. Connecting the will of the people to the actions of the  


∙ Participation helps upholds the core democratic principles of  political freedom and majority rule  

1. Forms of Political Participation  

∙ Voting is the most widespread and regularized form  

∙ Campaign activities, working/contributing money and trying to persuade others to support a party or candidate  

∙ Citizen initiated contacts with government officials in which a  person acts on a matter of individual concern (sending email  or speaking to a representative at a public forum)  

∙ Activities in which citizens act cooperatively to deal with  social and political problems, including working with like

minded people in interest groups  

2. The Theoretical Basis of Political Participation  

∙ As the cost of participation increase, rates of participation  decrease

i. Cost is used to indicate how easy or difficult it is to  


ii. Cost of voting usually minor  

∙ Rate of participation decreases when there are more cost  involved  

3. Is Political Participation in American High or Low?  

∙ In terms of majority rule: low

i. Voting in the presidential elections the only activity  

∙ Change over time: mixed signs  

i. Generally accepted that voting participation has declined  ∙ Comparison of Americans with other democracies: voting  participation in U.S. much lower than in other democracies  i. Contributing money and showing support for candidates is higher than in most democracies  

ii. More barriers to voting than in other countries  

II. The Right to Vote  

∙ Franchise: the right to vote  

i. in U.S. initially very limited, only adult white male property  owners  

∙ first major expansion of the franchise was the elimination of  property qualifications

∙ 15th amendment technically granted African Americans the right  to vote although stripped away by poll taxes or literary tests ∙ Voting Rights Act of 1965 that the franchise was fully extended  to African Americans  

∙ 19th amendment gave women the right to vote  

∙ American Indian Citizenship Act 1924 gave American Indians  voting rights  

∙ 26th amendment: voting rights for those over 18 years  ∙ Most states require voters to be U.S. citizens, residents of that  jurisdiction, and registered to vote  

∙ In most states, felons are denied the right to vote even after they have served their sentences  

1. Voter Turnout

∙ 55-60% of those eligible vote in presidential elections  ∙ Midterm Elections: congressional and gubernatorial  elections that occur in the middle of a presidential term  i. Turnout is well below 50%

∙ Voter Turnout: percentage of eligible voters who cast votes  in an election  

i. Most accurate way to estimate is to use the “Voting eligible population”  

∙ Different time periods and different measurement approaches  may give different notions of how much or even whether  turnout has declined  

∙ Why is voter turnout so low?

i. Elements of the political system

ii. Individual desire and ability to participate  

2. The Political System Turnout  

∙ Factors that contribute to low turnout: voting laws, voter  registration practices, two-party system, the scheduling and  number of elections

A. Voting Laws

o In Austria, Belgium, and Italy voting is required or you’ll  face fines  

o Bavaria said for an election to be considered valid, 2/3 of  eligible citizens had to cast ballots  

B. Voter Registration  

o In some nations the government takes on the responsibility of identifying potential voters and registering them  o Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act  requiring states to provide registration services when  citizens go renew their drivers’ license or seek other public  services

C. The Two-Party System

o Candidates appeal to middle of the road perspectives   End up with overlapping appeals frustrating voters   Voters cannot see differences and will find it troubling  to cast a ballot  

o Recently, republicans and democrats are seeking voters in  the center  

 Those who show up to the primary election are not  middle of the roaders but are strong and passionate  about ideas so candidates shift to focus on them  

D. Election Schedules and Frequency

o Presidential elections are on a Tuesday (work day)   Purely historical

 Didn’t compete with spring planting or the fall harvest  o Holding elections on weekends or making election day a  holiday would make it easier  

o Numerous elections (state and local levels)  

 Voters exhausted  

3. Individual Desire to Participate  

∙ Decline occurred during the same time as a number of  reforms should have led to a higher turnout  

i. Registering to vote was made easier but still low turnout  ∙ Key element:

i. Socioeconomic status

ii. An individual’s psychological engagement with politics  iii. Broader political and social context with which an  individual is connected  

iv. Resources necessary to participate- free time, money,  civic skills  

v. Group characteristics- age, gender, race

A. Socioeconomic Status

o Socioeconomic Status (SES): the social background and economic position of a person (most important  


 Measured in education, income, and occupation  

o Well educated people tend to hold higher status positions  B. Psychological Engagement

o Political Efficacy: the belief that one’s opinions are  important and that government will respond and respect  ones views  

o Political alienation: the feeling of being isolated from or  not part of the political process and system 

 Low levels of trust in the government

o Allegiant: feeling great trust and support for the political  system  

o Research has found that an individual’s personality can  predict his/her level of political involvement  

C. Context  

o Affected by the context in which an individual lives  

o Found that people who live in neighborhoods that reflect  and support their party identification are more likely to  become politically active  

o Mobilization: efforts aimed at influencing people to vote  in an election  

 “participation is a response to contextual cues and  

political opportunities”  

 Tend to influence the better-off, better educated, and  the better informed  

o Generational effect hypothesis

 Events and experiences that shape a generations  

attitude toward politics  

D. Resources  

o 3 types:

 Free time after work, household duties, and school

 Money

 Civic skills, such as communication and organizational  abilities  

o Money associated with high SES, free time is not  

E. Group Characteristics

o Race and age  

o Participation highest among middle aged people (45-65)  They have the greatest stake  

o African Americans and Latino participate less than whites   Because of education, income, and resources  

o Asian Americans control SES but still have lower turnout  than whites  

4. Voting and Democracy  

∙ If some groups participate less than others, are their  preferences are not counted for in the democratic process  III. Models of Voting Behavior  

1. The Sociological Model

∙ Explains voting behavior in the 1940 election  

∙ Sociological model: (Columbia model) a model explaining  voter choice by considering factors such as religion, place of  residence, and socioeconomic status  

∙ Catholics, city dwellers, people with low education, low  income/status voted Democrat (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

∙ Protestants, rural residents, higher status voted republican  (Wendell Willkie)  

2. The Social-Psychological Model  

∙ Social-Psychological Model: (Michigan Model) a model  explaining voter choice that focuses on individual attitudes  i. An individual’s psychological attachment to a political  party or party identification  

ii. Individual opinions about the candidates  

iii. Individual reviews on the issues prominent in a particular  election  

∙ Best known formulation of the social-psychological model is  The American Voter  

∙ Heart of the Michigan model is its focus on party identification and individual attitudes  

3. The Rational Choice Model  

∙ Michigan model primary competition

∙ Rational Choice Model: model of voter choice that  suggests than an individual will vote if the benefits of doing so outweigh the costs and will cast his/her ballot for candidates  who are closest to sharing the individuals views on the issues  ∙ Offers fairly precise predictions of voter behavior  

∙ it focuses on issues “which are submerged in the early  findings of the Michigan researchers”  

∙ early forms suggested that cost of voting outweighed the  conceivable benefit  

∙ paradox: why do so many people bother to participate when it does not appear rational to do so  

i. voters gain utility not just from the outcome of voting but  also from the act of voting  

IV. Explaining the Vote  

∙ According to the Michigan model there are 3 primary elements  that go into a decision to vote for a particular candidate:  i. Party identification

ii. Candidate image

iii. Issues  

1. Party Identification

∙ According to Michigan model, most important  

∙ Begins in childhood and intensifies with age

∙ Party labels allow voters a quick/easy way of making  judgements about an area  

∙ Increase in split-ticket voting  

∙ Why are there shifts in party loyalty?

i. Rise of candidate-centered election campaigns (as  

opposed to party centered)  

ii. Rise of the electronic media  

iii. Party loyalty underwent a period of ideological and  

regional realignment in the 70s/80s  

2. Candidate Image  

∙ Candidate Image: voters’ perceptions of a candidates  qualities 

∙ Candidate viewed as a strong leader or as having high levels  of integrity are more likely to gain voters  

∙ Image has become more important with the rise of television  ∙ In congress, image is even more important than in  

presidential contests

3. Issues  

∙ Issues can influence a voting decision only if these 3  conditions are present  

i. Voter must be aware that the issues exist

ii. Issues must be of personal concern to the voter

iii. The voter must perceive that one candidate better  

represents his or her own thinking on the issues  

∙ Key factor is how issues play out in a campaign  

∙ 2 types of issue voting

i. Retrospective Voting: voting that is based on an  

individual’s evaluation of the past performance of a  


ii. Prospective Voting: voting that is based on an  

individual’s estimation of how well a candidate will  

perform duties in the future  

iii. Retrospective assessments tend to me stronger and more  influential  

V. Voting Behavior and the Operation of the American Political System  ∙ Political system must balance stability and change  

i. Elections help achieve this  

∙ Maintaining Election: an election in which the traditional  majority party maintains power based on the longstanding  partisan orientation of the voters  

∙ Deviating Elections: an election in which the minority party is  able to overcome the long-standing partisan orientation of the  public based on temporary or short-term forces  

∙ Reinstating Election: an election in which the majority party  regains power after a deviating election  

∙ Those 3 represent long-term stability

∙ Realigning election: an election in which the minority party is  able to build a relatively stable coalition to win election, and this  coalition endures over a series of elections  

i. Require a minority party to become a majority and  maintain that for a long term  

ii. Product of 2 forces: an event or crisis that prompts voters  to switch their loyalties and new voters are mobilized and  disproportionally favor the minority party  

1. Contemporary Alignment

∙ Significant electoral changes over the last 25 years have  frayed the Democrats’ New Deal coalition and aided  Republicans, but there has been no long-term realignment to  the GOP

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