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Campaigns and Elections
Political socialization is the process by which people acquire a set of political attitudes and form opinions about social issues.
Agents of Political Socialization
Peer group Career
Media Life stage
Political values change almost throughout your life. The most important influences on your political values, however,
occur during your early life. Your family, school, community (religious organizations, youth groups, civic activities) and your peer groups have
the most profound effects. It is your family that gives you that basic attitude toward government that you will carry with you throughout your life.
PARENTAL INFLUENCE ON PARTY ID
% of children who are Democrat
% of children who are
% of children who are
both parents Democrats
both parents Independents
both parents Republicans
-from National Election Study data
Family is the single most important factor in your political socialization. However, throughout your life, your political values
are influenced by college, adult peers (workers, friends, neighbors, spouses), political leaders, media and your political experiences. Too,
the maturation process alone will affect your political values. Until you have children, you will care little for public school issues. Until you own a home, you will care little for property tax issues. Political socialization, to a greater or lesser degree, will continue throughout your life.
The opinions you form exist at three basic levels.
Sam Huntington: liberty equality, individualism, rule of law
2. political orientation
translation of values
and beliefs into a systematic way of assessing the political environment
psychological attachment to a party
ideology: consistent set
of values and beliefs about the purpose and scope of government
3. political preferences
attitudes about specific issues / candidates
campaigns have little
effect on voting choices ... routine personal contact with family, neighbors,
co-workers and other acquaintances is the predominant influence
The Age Gap: Old vs. Young
Do You Live in a Political Bubble?
... the collected attitudes of citizens on a given issue or question.
Governments tend to react to public opinion.
The fact that a public official serves at the pleasure of the voters usually tends to make that official sensitive to public opinion.
American public opinion has some unique characteristics.
The public's attitudes toward a given government policy
vary over time.
The majority of American voters stand somewhere near the
middle ground on most issues in American politics.
Americans tend to fall into one of four categories based on how knowledgeable they are about politics
opinion leaders 29%
informed public 34%
uninformed public 23%
politically clueless 13%
American citizens are more than willing to
express opinions about things of which they are totally ignorant.
American public opinion is
pragmatic, rather than ideological.
We may often talk theoretically but we act practically. That does not mean we don’t have political ideologies but it does mean we probably aren’t ideologues in the true sense of the word.
American public opinion is:
Wlezien's Thermostatic Model: Government responds to public opinion but often
overshoots it, causing the public to move in the opposite direction.
post-truth: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective
facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and
I. Public Opinion Polls
... the instruments by which we discover the public’s opinion on an issue at a given point in time
The population is the group of people you’re interested in studying.
The sample is that part of the population considered to represent the entire population.
A poll is a type of survey or inquiry into public opinion conducted by interviewing a representative sample of the population.
population vs. sample / target population vs. random sample
random sample is the result of a process that selects a sample from the larger population entirely by chance.
sampling error tells you how much confidence you can have in the findings of the poll. The smaller the sampling error is, the more confidence you can have that the findings are accurate. The larger the sample is in relation to the population, the smaller the error. In general, you should look for a sampling error of ±3% … any poll with an error larger than ±5% is probably not worth the paper it’s printed on.
Properly conducted scientific polls are highly accurate and the data generated by an opinion poll are used to measure and analyze public opinion.
SLOPs (self-selected listener opinion polls),
CRAPs (computerized response audience
polling), intercept polls, FRUG
polls (fund raising under the guise of polls) and push
polls are neither scientific nor accurate. In fact, push polls only pretend to
be polls in order to "push" you into believing something, e.g. "If you found out
that the local community college has been overcharging students for their
tuition, would you continue to attend your local college?" Push polls don't
really care about your opinion ... they're trying to get you to believe their opinion.
Real Clear Politics
Survey USA FAQs
II. Qualities of Public Opinion
B. Direction (skewness)
Fox News (April 2004)
asked the following question of 900 registered voters:
Do you support or
oppose the US having taken military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi
President Saddam Hussein? Is that strongly support/oppose or only somewhat
In this example had the
question only offered the response options, support and oppose, the results
would have yielded only that 65% were in support and 31% opposed. The strength
of opinion at the two extremes would not have been ascertained along with the
knowledge that the conviction at either end — the strongly held views — was more
than triple the more mildly held views.
D. Stability / Continuity
amount of change over time
What To Make Of Polls That Show Americans Are Trending Toward The
Be a Critical Observer of Polls
1. Who Was Interviewed?
Generally speaking, the accuracy of a poll depends upon the degree to which the characteristics of the people being interviewed is really similar to those of the group they are supposed to represent. For example, the polling of sixteen-year-olds to predict the outcome of an election would be very questionable since they cannot vote.
Also, as a general rule, the greater the number of people interviewed, the more likely the prediction will be accurate.
Everything else being equal, an election poll of 100,000 out of two million voters is more likely to produce accurate results than a poll of 1,000 out of the same number. It is important to point out that large, national polling organizations have small national samples of under 2,000 that predict quite accurately for the entire electorate.
Lastly, those interviewed should have been selected in a random fashion. This is usually done to avoid or lessen the possibility of allowing any "unaccounted for" bias or characteristics ... of those being interviewed ... to influence the results. The accuracy of a poll designed to sample the views of all registered Republicans, for example, would definitely be suspect and have a conservative bias if it interviewed only contributors to Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful presidential campaign of 1964.
2. Under What Conditions Were The Interviews Conducted?
Generally speaking, unclear, biased, or emotionally charged questions will produce misleading answers and weaken the accuracy of the results of a poll. Questions such as ... How do you feel about candidate X? or, You are planning to vote for candidate Y, are you not? would be suspect.
Also, if the people being polled are asked to choose from a given set of responses in answering a question, there must be an acceptable number of alternatives from which to choose. For example, suppose those being polled are required to respond to a question ... either "yes" or "no." This practice would eliminate the possibility that some of the people may truly be "undecided" and consequently distort the accuracy of the poll's results.
Finally, polls conducted by telephone or through the mails generally do not tend to be as reliable as personal interviews. This is largely due to the fact that the former measures are not as likely to be able to control for who really participates in the poll, the number who respond, and possible misinterpretation of the questions.
3. When Was the Poll Conducted?
It should also be noted that the results of a poll are representative ... however accurate ... of the preferences, views and feelings of a particular group of people
at a particular point in time. As a general rule, the more current the poll, the more likely it is to produce meaningful and useful results. A summer poll regarding who should be elected president in 2004, for example, is not likely to be as accurate as a poll taken during election week of the actual election.
4. Who Conducted the Poll?
Past reputation and performance can also help an individual determine the validity of the results of a poll. Generally speaking, "novice" pollsters are not likely to be able to compete with professional polling organizations with their large staff's, seemingly unlimited resources, and sophisticated computer equipment. In addition, polls conducted by groups with an obvious interest in the results should be held suspect until proven otherwise. Finally, past performance records of a polling group might be useful in determining the organization's credibility and reliability.
5. What was the Percentage of Error?
Polling organizations should also indicate what the potential for error of their poll is. Based on the size of their sample it is statistically possible to do so and indicates reliability to the reader.
Public Opinion Polls Do
Not Always Report Public Opinion
The Folly of the Modern Political Poll (PDF)
Misleading Statistics Examples in Advertising and in the News
Misleading Graphs: Real Life Examples
I. Media-Politics Process
o Information seldom full or complete.
o Candidates exploit issues in advertisements.
o Information becomes altered.
o Information becomes short, simple
and highly thematic.
o Leads to the increasing importance of political advertising.
Media Effect on Politics
Reduced choice of
Politics as a game
for the financial elite
Candidate issue positions
Media technology gives candidates tools
Media help candidates identify "hot" issues
5 Ways New Media Are Changing Politics
II. Network News Coverage
More negative than ads
One-third of candidate messages are negative
Two-thirds of news coverage is negative
Structural bias in media
Early negative coverage is hard to shake
Networks shape sound bites from stories
Emphasizes the dramatic
No meaningful context
III. Political Advertising
Convey information that will evoke positive feelings about the candidate
Information can be positive or negative
and issue positions
Candidate controls content
Candidate controls the appeal
Stress image and issues
Measure citizens’ responses
Reinforce long-held predispositions about issues, personalities, political parties
Positive ads have to run again and again and again to stick
Negative ads move poll numbers in three or four days
System rewards those who win ... more important than voter turnout
What does the research say about negative advertising?
Negative ads do not increase participation.
Negative ads reduce positive attitudes toward candidates and races.
Attack advertising extracts a toll on participation: voting drops by 2.5% with negative ads
and increases by the same amount with a positive ad. It's strongest effect is on independents.
Provides valuable information.
Reveals information about candidate's strengths or weaknesses.
Stimulates the base into action.
More knowledgeable voters are most likely to pay attention to ads.
Negative ads are given more weight.
Negative ads produce stronger emotional effects than positive ads.
The Negative Consequences
of Uncivil Political Discourse (PDF)
Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Primary (3:41):
Ever wondered what goes into covering a Presidential campaign? Here is an inside
look at C-SPAN's efforts around the New Hampshire Primary.
Political TV Ad Archive
How does news shape the way we see the world? (4:19)
The Shocking Campaign Ad That Put a Third-Party Candidate on the Political
The Science of Political Advertising
Political Advertising Strategies
Appeal to Authority
cite an authority who is not qualified to have an expert opinion
cite an expert when other experts disagree on the issue
cite an expert by hearsay only
Appeal to Force
predict dangerous outcomes if follow a course other than yours
Appeal to Popularity / Bandwagon
hold an opinion to be valuable because large numbers of people support it
Attacking the Person
attack the person making the argument, not the argument
attack the person making the argument because of those with whom he associates
insinuate that the person making the argument would stand to gain by it
offer a limited number of options — usually two — when there are really more choices
use a sample too small to support the conclusion
threaten a series of increasingly dire consequences
if taking a different course of action
on Persuasion and Influence
The 30 Second Candidate
The Living Room Candidate
Media in the United States
Covering elections, governance and the democratic process: some
o Fragmentation of audiences and outlets
o Shift from networks toward more diverse sources, such as radio, local TV, Internet
o Tabloidization of news
o Fierce commercial pressures
o Permanent campaigns: leading to constant polls, focus groups, electronic town meetings
rise in the importance of social media
Why Do Americans Distrust the Media?
Are You Getting The Truth From Cable News Channels ?
Trust In The Media Has Declined In Last 15 Years
Why can’t a generation that grew up online spot the misinformation in front
You can use a search
tool on your phone or desktop in a clever way to separate fact from fiction
-- before you share a link or meme.
Have we reshaped Middle East
politics or started to mimic it?
...an organization of individuals with similar views that tries to influence government to respond favorably to those views.
The principal purpose of interest group activity is to influence government to respond to the group’s objectives.
I. Types of Interest Groups
1. business (dominant)
3. professional organizations (doctors, lawyers, teachers)
4. labor unions (weak in Texas, a right-to-work state)
5. ethnic (NAACP, LULAC)
6. religious organizations
1. individual businesses not part of a membership organization
D. Functions of Interest Groups
1. They provide a vehicle for grassroots political participation.
2. They channel information on key issues to the general public.
3. They monitor the performance of federal officials and programs.
II. Techniques Used by Interest Groups
...communication by a representative of an interest group directed at a government official to influence the official’s decisions
legislature: providing information, communications with constituents, filing bills
executive agencies: influence implementation of laws
types of lobbyists
donate $ to campaign
media strategy (TV ads, newspaper ads)
raise $ for candidates
grassroots lobbying: shape public opinion
III. Interest Group Power
Money: oil and gas industry
Membership: strength in numbers, teachers
Hire former legislators: former members know system and the current members
Distribution across state
wide distribution: strong
narrow or limited distribution: weaker
IV. Comparing Interest Group Power Across States
more diverse economy: more groups, less influence
less diverse economy: few dominant groups, more influence
weak two-party competition: strong groups
strong two-party system: weak groups
structure of state government
decentralized executive structure: strong groups
iron triangle (legislative committee, executive agency, interest group)
centralized executive structure: weaker groups
a broadly based coalition that attempts to gain control of the government by winning elections
The principal purpose of political party activity is to gain control of government by winning elections.
I. 50 Two-Party Systems
A. state parties are independent of national organizations
1. few national offices, many state offices
2. common goals and similar issues, but separate organizations
B. state party ideology
1. competitive vs. noncompetitive states
2. policy-relevant vs. non-policy-relevant states
a. not competitive, Republican dominance
b. not policy relevant: old southern Democrats similar to new Republicans
c. traditional culture, small government, low taxes
The majority of American voters stand somewhere near the middle ground on many issues of American politics.
II. Party Realignment in Texas
A. One-party Democratic
1. end of Reconstruction through 1970s
2. southern Democratic hostility to party of Lincoln, Reconstruction, Yankees
3. conservative Democrats dominate party — landowners and merchants
4. no competition for almost a century
5. Yellow Dog Democrats
A very gradual realignment from top to bottom
1. 1950s presidential elections: Eisenhower over Stevenson
2. 1961: first Republican senator since Reconstruction (Tower)
3. 1970s: first Republican governor since Reconstruction (Clements)
4. 1980s: Democratic defectors (Gramm)
5. 1990s: Republican dominance ushered in by Bush
century Republicans taking traditional Democratic county offices
7. Probably the single factor most responsible for Republican growth in Texas after WWII was the increased size and prosperity of the Texas middle and upper classes.
C. voter profiles
old and native Texans
D. de-alignment and the declining influence of parties
1. more independent voters
2. party outsiders win party nominations
3. media, not party leaders, weed out candidates
4. raise $ from individuals
and interest groups, not just parties
5. well-funded candidates have upper hand, not party organizations
E. third-party movements in Texas
1. Raza Unida (1970s)
2. Libertarians (1990s)
3. Ross Perot
Seven Third-Party Ideas Ahead of Their Time
Detailed new Times maps show
how often Democrats and Republicans live in separate neighborhoods.
Labor? Liberal? Patriot? If America had six political parties, which
would be yours?
Are we really facing a second Civil War?
III. The State Party Organization
continuity between elections
precinct chair: basic level in the party organization in Texas
county chair and executive committee
state chair and executive committee
only during election years
precinct convention: held on primary election day, must vote in primary
select delegates to county or district convention
county or district convention
select delegates to county or district convention
select national convention delegates
nominate electors for electoral college (presidential election years only)
write party platform
Delegate selection systems
primary elections used in Texas
used in Iowa
Directory of US Political Parties
National and State Political Parties
Does the Red-State/Blue-State Model of US Electoral Politics Still Work?
How the Republican and Democratic Parties Got Their Animal Symbols
The State of the Modern Political Logo
US Political Parties
[This is by no means a complete list of political parties in the US.]
America First Party
1630 A 30th Street #111
Boulder, CO 80301
Post Office Box 612
Tooele, UT 84074
American Fascist Party
American Heritage Party
Post Office Box 241
Leavenworth, WA 98826-0241
Other Phone: 888-396-6247
American Nazi Party
Post Office Box 85942
Westland, MI 48185
American Patriot Party
American Reform Party
10 Aida Court
Lodi, NJ 07644
American Synthesis Party
Post Office Box 40099
Augusta, GA 30909
American Solidarity Party
824 Whitmer Rd
Sligo PA 16255
6282 12th Street North, Apartment 102
Oakdale, MN 55128
Being Human Party
Attn: Ron Wilde, CPA
330 North Main Street #120
Kaysville, UT 94037
Christian Falangist Party of America
Post Office Box 1106
Newton, NC 28658
Common Good Party
Mail: Human Progress Network
610 Ethan Allen Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Communist Party USA
235 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
23 North Lime Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
Other Phone: 800-283-8647
Constitution Action Party
Post Office Box 5705
Arlington, VA 22205-5705
Democratic National Committee
430 South Capitol Street, South East
Washington, DC 20003
Democratic Socialists Party
Freedom Socialist Party
4710 University Way North East, #100
Seattle, WA 98105
1711 18th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009
Other Phone: 202-319-7192
Independence Party of America
Post Office Box 40495
Saint Paul, MN 55104
Independent American Party
679 Rancho Circle
Mesquite, NV 89027-2565
Justice Party USA
PO Box 193
Washington DC 20006
Post Office Box 53177
Washington, DC 20009
2600 Virginia Avenue, Northwest
Washington, DC 20037
20 Sunnyside Avenue
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Modern Whig Party
1207 Delaware Ave
Buffalo NY 14209
National Socialist Movement
Post Office Box 580669
Minneapolis, MN 55458
Native American Party
Neo Whig Party
Post Office Box 910786
St. George, UT 84791
New American Independent Party
Peace and Freedom Party
Oakland CA 94623
Populist Party of America
123 South Figueroa Street
Los Angeles, CA 90012
Progressive ProAction Party
114 Caroline Street
Plymouth, WI 53073
Post Office Box 2635
Denver, CO 80201
Post Office Box 3236
Abilene, TX 79604
Republican National Committee
310 First Street, South East
Washington, DC 20003
815 15th Street, North West
Washington, DC 20005
Other Phone: 202-638-1515
298 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Socialist Equality Party
Socialist Labor Party
Post Office Box 218
Mountain View, CA 94042-0218
339 Lafayette Street # 303
New York, NY 10012
Other Phone: 201-803-7574
Southern Independence Party
1402 Carol Avenue
Lancaster, TX 75134
The Forever Party
Thermodynamic Law Party
United Fascist Union
US Marijuana Party
1022 Collins Ct
Bartonville, IL 61607-1714
US Pacifist Party
We The People Party
Post Office Box 253
Jackson, NH 03846
Worker's Socialist Party
1205 Thomas Palmer Court
Lawrenceville, GA 30043
Workers World Party
55 West 17 Street
New York, NY 10011
IV. Parties vs. Movements
...an organized group of people with at least roughly similar
political aims and opinions, and with the goal of influencing public policy
by getting its candidates elected to public office
Some theorists state that third/minor parties are not really parties because
in a winner-take-all system they know they can never win elections. However,
third/minor parties frequently win elections for local and even state-wide
offices. Even if they didn’t, their goal is to win elections as
demonstrated by their continued selection of and campaigning for nominees.
...a sense of belonging and of solidarity generated through active
does not have one over-all formal organization but may include many
organized groups (for example, the labor movement, which includes trade
unions, political parties, consumer cooperatives and many other
implies the creation of an entirely new political order and so develops
a more or less elaborate, more or less consistent set of ideas which its
members must accept BUT a given movement’s ideas, and therefore its
goals, may be more or less defined
examples of recent movements:
neoreaction (NRx or Dark Enlightenment) (c 2007): an
anti-democratic and reactionary movement that favors a return to
older societal constructs and forms of government, including support
for monarchism and traditional gender roles, coupled with a
libertarian or otherwise conservative approach to economics … a
loosely-defined cluster of Internet-based political thinkers with no
interest in appealing to a wider audience … an early school of
thought in the alt-right
Tea Party (2009): despite its name, conservative movement
(mixture of libertarian, populist and conservative activism) with a
specific set of goals and objectives (reduction of the US national
debt and federal budget deficit by reducing government spending,
supports lower taxes, opposes government-sponsored programs), has
aligned itself with Republican Party
Coffee Party (2010): despite its name, initially founded as an
alternative to the Tea Party movement, grassroots organization with
specific goals (cooperation and civility in government and removal
of corporate influence from politics … government is not the enemy
of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and we
must participate in the democratic process in order to address the
challenges we face)
Alt-right (new right) (2010): loose movement of people with
far-right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the US
and whose leaders seek to take their ideas mainstream, mostly an
online movement that uses websites, chat boards, social media and
memes to spread its message
Occupy Wall Street (2011): movement with no specific centralized
platform (against social and economic inequality, greed, corruption
and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government
particularly from the financial services sector) other than a broad
call for change and so attracts a variety of ideological
Political violence occurs when groups of people have very
separate worldviews. Some members of these groups and those who back
them really believe they are carrying out legitimate acts of
revolution when they engage in illegal activity.
Right-wing militias such as Oath
Keepers and Three Percenters, whose Roman numeral III can
be seen on patches and flags, are anti-government, pro-guns and
currently pro-Trump. Others on the right who share the militias’
anti-government views often signal their beliefs with the Gadsden
flag, a yellow banner dating to the American Revolution with a
rattlesnake and the phrase Don’t Tread on Me.
who wear their signature Hawaiian shirts, and Proud Boys, who
often wear orange hats, include racists and anti-Semites, though the
outright white supremacists tend to keep a lower profile. Some wear
Crusader crosses or Germanic pagan imagery that has become popular
on the racist and anti-Semitic fringes. Others have adopted an OK
hand-gesture as their own. Pepé the Frog, the smirking cartoon
amphibian that has become a widely recognized symbol of the
alt-right crowd, is a common sight.
You will often see the
green-and-white flags of Kekistan, the fictional country that is
home to the deity “Kek.” In the
meme-driven culture of the alt-right, a satirical religion
has sprouted up around Kek “as a way to troll liberals and
self-righteous conservatives,” according to the Southern Poverty Law
Center, which tracks hate groups. “He is a god of chaos and
darkness, with the head of a frog, the source of their mimetic
‘magic,’ to whom the alt-right and Donald Trump owe their success.”
The skull-like symbol of the Punisher, a crime-fighting Marvel comic
book antihero, is also a common sight. It has become a popular
emblem on the far right in recent years and is sometimes used by
police officers to signal one another without having to wear badges.
The QAnon conspiracy theory
falsely claims that there is a cabal of Democrats, deep-state
bureaucrats and international financiers who use their power to rape
and kill children, and that Donald Trump was elected to vanquish
them. The canard is convoluted and confusing, but its iconography is
clear and plentiful: shirts with the letter Q or slogans like
Trust the Plan; signs saying Save the Children; and
flags with the abbreviation WWG1WGA, which stands for
Where We Go One, We Go All.
Occupy Wall Street (OWS) vs The Tea Party
The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street
What You Need To Know About The Alt-Right Movement
Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries
I. Forms of Political Participation
Who participates in politics is an important issue. Those who participate are
likely to have more political influence than those who do not. Higher education
is the single most important factor in producing a high degree of participation.
Older persons and men are also likely to be active. Blacks participate more than
whites of equal socioeconomic status.
Although voter turnout has decreased over the past twenty years, it seems that
other forms of participation, such as writing letters to public officials and
engaging in demonstrations, have increased. There are many ways in which
Americans can participate in politics-ranging from voting, which a majority do
with some regularity, to belonging to a political club or organization, which
only a few do. In an elaborate analysis of the ways people participate, Verba
and Nie discovered six different kinds of citizens.
Inactives participate little if at all (22%).
Parochial participants neither vote nor engage in campaigns or
community activity, but they do contact officials about specific, often
personal, problems (4%).
Communalists engage in community activities of a nonpartisan nature
Voting specialists regularly vote but do little else (21%).
Campaigners vote and also participate in conflictual political
activities, such as campaigns (15%).
Complete activists participate in all forms of political
Americans are less likely to vote than are Europeans. The reasons for this
difference are complex. First, the US has an almost bewildering number of
elective offices, an estimated 521,000 positions. Voters' enthusiasm for
elections is surely deflated by the sheer volume of names with which they must
familiarize themselves. In Europe, in contrast, each voter generally is
confronted with only one or two offices to fill per election, so that electoral
decisions do not impose a burden on the voter. Even in Europe, however, voter
apathy increases with the number of elections. Too much democracy, in terms of
either selecting government offices or making policy, is exhausting.
A second explanation for the poor turnout rate involves the mechanics of
voting procedures. It is common in other countries for voting to be
compulsory by law and for registration to be carried out automatically by the
government. Mandatory voting would probably fail to survive a constitutional
challenge in this country on First Amendment grounds. Just as people have a
right not to speak (like refusing to salute the flag), it would seem to
follow that they have a right to refrain from voting as well.
Simplifying registration is a different matter. Republicans in particular have
tended to resist any easing of registration standards. Even during the 2020
coronavirus pandemic, many office holders fought against making registration and
voting easier, citing concerns about voter fraud even though widespread fraud
has never occurred during modern times.
Over the past decade
civil rights advocates have witnessed and litigated against systematic campaigns
to impede voters at every step of the electoral process. In 2011, 38 states
introduced legislation to constrain and obstruct universal suffrage. Although
state officials claim that voter ID laws and related constraints are necessary
to prevent voter fraud, one of the most
comprehensive studies on the subject
found only 31 individual cases of voter fraud out of 1 billion votes cast since
the year 2000. The state campaigns to impede universal voter participation seem
to reflect a fear and resentment of multiethnic democratic participation as
voters of color are strategically targeted for discrimination and intimidation.
federal court struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law,
concluding that its primary purpose wasn’t to stop voter fraud, but rather to
disenfranchise minority voters.
The weakness of political parties must also be considered. Unlike in the
past, parties today lack the patronage and welfare incentives to mobilize voting
blocs. Moreover, the impact of progressive reforms, such as the Australian
ballot and stricter registration requirements for voting, have contributed to
the loss of party influence over the electorate.
All these factors combine to explain why people do not vote in large numbers in
the US. Yet it is equally important to comprehend the other side of the issue,
namely, the factors that lead people to vote. Research underscores the
significance of personal characteristics in motivating a person's decision
to participate on election day. Education is the most critical variable.
As their educational level increases, individuals develop a stronger sense of
civic duty and a greater interest in, and knowledge of, politics. But education
alone is not a sufficient explanation, since voting rates have continued to
decline despite the proliferation of college degrees in recent decades. Another
characteristic that correlates with voting is age; older voters are more
likely to participate. But here again, overall voting rates have diminished
while the population has aged. Something other than personal characteristics
therefore seem to play a role in election turnout: the characteristics of the
election itself. Most recent elections have presented voters with uninspiring
candidates who failed to stimulate interest or excitement. The lack of a
realigning issue has made politics boring. However, turnout reaches notable
peaks in certain elections, as in 1964 (a sharp ideological choice between
candidates) and 1992 (an economy in recession and the charismatic candidate H.
Ross Perot). Voters participate when aroused to do so.
Considering how few tangible rewards participation produces, it is not
surprising that over 40% of Americans either do not participate at all or limit
their participation to voting. Compared to citizens of other democracies,
Americans vote less but engage more in other forms of activity. Despite the
comments above, the
number of Americans who voted in the 2020 November election was an eye-opening:
66.7% of the voting-eligible population. Whether or not that was an exception or
the beginning of a new trend in voter turnout remains to be seen.
How to Participate in
II. Voter Turnout Data
A. regional patterns
1. northern and middle states: higher
2. western and southern states: lower
3. link turnout to political culture
B. calculating turnout
1. voting age population
(VAP): all adults over 18
2. registered voters: citizens registered to vote
3. turnout based on registered voters higher than
turnout based on VAP
Voting is the principal means of political participation for most Texans.
Years of formal schooling is the single best socioeconomic predictor of the likelihood of an individual to vote.
primary source of campaign news in the US is television.
pivotal state (a large, populous state with many electoral votes that a candidate must win to be elected), presidential candidates
are almost forced to rely on advertising.
Candidates try to sell themselves and their ideas on television
since it is the surest means of reaching the largest number of people.
In an effort to affect large numbers of voters, candidates often rely on
personal attacks on opponents ... negative campaigning. We complain about negative campaigning, but it works!
most likely to learn political information about candidates from advertising materials prepared by the candidates.
III. Types of US Voters
A. ideologue: can articulate a personal political ideology and
connect it to specific candidate or party positions (12%)
group beneficiary: vote based solely on groups they like or groups they dislike (42%)
fair / foul weather: vote only when they believe times are very good or very bad (24%)
no issue content: votes are totally disconnected from any ideological or issue content but rather are based either on habitually voting for a specific party or person or based on candidate’s personality, appearance or etc.
IV. Low Voter Turnout in Texas
A. current registration laws
1. citizen: many immigrants in Texas cannot vote
2. 18 years old
3. 30-day registration deadline (longer than most states)
B. historical barriers
1. $1.75 poll tax: a device used in Texas to prevent lower income persons from voting during the 20th century
2. annual registration required
3. white primaries: in one-party state
the primary determines winner of general election
4. property requirements for local elections
5. women’s suffrage
C. unique social factors in Texas that
keep turnout low
1. higher poverty rates
2. large minority population
3. large immigrant population
4. lower than average educational levels
5. lower than average age
D. lack of two-party competition
1. one-party Democratic from end of Reconstruction until 1970s
2. same case in most former Confederate states
E. traditional/individual culture
F. staggered local elections
Project Vote Smart
Vote: The Machinery of Democracy
Projected Congressional Seats
Can anything change Americans’ minds about Donald Trump? And what does
that say about our basic theory of responsive democracy?
Commonsense Solidarity: How a Working-Class Coalition Can Be Built, and
Maintained - A creative new poll asks working-class respondents -
defined as people without a bachelor’s degree - to choose between two
hypothetical candidates. The candidates are described both personally (their
gender, race and job category) and politically (including a sound bite in
which they talk about their views). The poll finds that working-class swing
voters hold a swirl of progressive and conservative views.
Campaigns and Elections
General Election: an election to fill public offices
Primary Election: an election prior to the general election in which party voters select the candidates who will run on each party's ticket. Primaries are also used to choose convention delegates and party leaders.
Electoral College: group of representatives that formally elects the President and the Vice President. (elector: a person who elects someone else,
college: a decision-making group such as the College of Cardinals, which elects the pope) The number of electors from each state is equal to the sum of the state's Senators and Representatives in the Congress. The District of Columbia received the right to be represented by electors in 1961 with the ratification of the 23rd Amendment. Today, the Electoral College has 538 representatives. The Founding Fathers rejected the idea of direct elections. This was, of course, a time when communication and travel were difficult and there were no national parties. In the first presidential election, George Washington and John Adams were elected President and Vice President respectively by the Electoral College. There was no popular vote. The power to determine the method of choosing electors belongs to the states. Generally, the parties select the slate of electors, who are then chosen by popular vote. The electors assemble in their respective state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. According to the Constitution, the electors may exercise their own discretion in voting, but in practice all the votes in a given state go to the presidential candidate who has received the plurality of the popular vote. The candidate who becomes the President must win at least 270 electoral votes. Some have proposed replacing the Electoral College with a system of direct elections. Such proposals would require amending the Constitution. A system of direct elections would not only reduce the power of the two major political parties, but would also reduce the importance of the states in the electoral process.
US Electoral College
270 To Win
Atlas of US Presidential Elections
PBS Government & Civics
Frontline Government / Elections / Politics
Don’t blame the electoral college.
Federalist #68 (Alexander Hamilton): explains the mode of electing the
About the Electors
A tied electoral college would hand the election to the House of
Representatives, since neither candidate would have a majority.
Why Democrats have to win large majorities in order to govern while
Republicans don’t need majorities at all
What does it mean if Republicans won’t
I. Ballot Rules
A. types of ballots
party column: lists all candidates of a party under the party name
more straight ticket voting
voting for candidates who are all from the same party
office block / office group: lists all candidates for an office under the office
more split ticket voting
voting for candidates of different parties for various offices in the same election
1. independent candidate: petition signed by 1% of number of voters in last governor election
2. petition signers must be registered voters who did not vote in a primary
3. write-in candidates: must declare candidacy for votes to count
C. minor parties
between 5% and 19% of vote for statewide office
2. must hold nominating conventions, but not primary elections
if slip below 5% for statewide office, lose ballot status
II. Primary Elections
...for parties receiving more than 20% of vote for statewide office
A. types of primaries
2. closed: Texas primaries are classified as closed where the voter signifies party membership by voting in a primary
B. open vs. closed primaries
1. raiding or crossover voting: more common in open primary
C. runoff primary
for a primary nomination in TX, candidate must receive majority of
2. mostly in south, vestige of one-party Democratic rule
3. no crossover voting from primary to runoff primary
D. presidential primary
1. primary picks delegates to the presidential nominating conventions
A. 1965 Voting Rights Act
2. Spanish ballots for areas with more than 20% Spanish speakers
B. absentee ballot: soldiers mostly
C. early voting 22 days before election, open to all voters
D. upper-class bias in early voting?
IV. Modern Campaigns
A. old system
1. local campaigns, limited statewide media
2. tell each county what they want to hear, suit message to each venue
B. new system
1. mass media, same message
2. speak in sound bites
3. campaign ads
a. feel good spots: associate the candidate with good times
(family eating together, sun coming up), good times for this state
or country are ahead with this candidate in office
b. sainthood: present candidate with his family, ideal
father, little league coach, creating the perfect candidate
c. good old boy: Voters identify with the candidate as being
one of them. Create a link between candidate and average people. One
version is to have average citizens talking in campaign ads about
the candidate, not famous people, politicians or celebrities. Other
version is when you make candidate seem a little bit more common, to
identify them as someone like them, someone who really cares about
d. NOOTs (No One's Opposed To This): The candidate takes a
courageous stand on an issue (broad not detailed because that's when
you start getting opposition). Looks into the camera and tells us
he's against crime, in favor of making schools better. (Nobody is
against these things.)
e. basher spots: negative campaigning
C. role of consultants
1. sell candidate as a product, package the candidate
2. image and message, not the issues
D. role of money
1. Any citizen can contribute to a campaign except those with federal government contracts.
2. Foreigners with no permanent US residency are prohibited from contributing to any campaign.
3. Cash contributions over $100 are prohibited, no matter what their origin.
4. No candidate can accept an anonymous contribution that is more than $50.
5. Corporations, labor unions, national banks
and federally chartered corporations are prohibited from contributing to federal campaigns.
6. PACs operated by foreign-owned corporations may contribute as long as Americans are the only contributors to the PAC.
7. Minors are prohibited from contributing to federal candidates
and committees of political parties.
E. role of the PAC
1. political action committee: common term for a committee set up to raise
and spend money to elect and defeat candidates
2. most PACs represent ideological, business or labor interests
3. can’t buy an election
4. can buy access
5. late train financing: post election fund-raising especially if PAC supported loser
F. presidential transition
What does it take to transition the most powerful office in the world?
Presidential transitions are big, complicated and dangerous. The
peaceful, orderly transition of executive power from one leader to
another is an American practice. When President George Washington first
transferred power to his successor, John Adams, in 1796, it was a
radical idea, unprecedented in world history. Over the next two
centuries (until the 2020 election), the practice has continued unbroken by the shadow of war, the
stain of scandal or the wake of sudden tragedy, and remains a signature
achievement of our constitution.
WhoPaidThem.com: a game about political money
(03/02/2016 - 3:47):
A look at voting results and analysis from Super Tuesday, with Republican
Candidate Donald Trump and Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton winning the most
Contested Convention Scenarios
(02/25/2016 - 1:50):
A look at the rules and possible scenarios if there is a contested GOP
convention, including backroom deals and delegates trading favors.
Podcast: How the Media Projects the Winner
of an Election (32:55)
Center for Presidential Transition
The Most Important Takeover of Any Organization in History
A Short History of Awkward Presidential Transitions
Perspective on Presidential Transitions
Welcome to the Presidential Transition from Hell
Presidential Transition Guide
V. Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act of 2002
... to candidate or candidate committee
... to national party committee
... to PAC or other political committee
... a total amount
per primary election and
per general election
per calendar year
per calendar year
per calendar year
Individual can give ...
(indexed for inflation)
limits higher for candidates facing wealthy opponents financing their own elections
per party committee
limits higher to candidates facing wealthy opponents financing their own elections
per each state or local party committee
per each PAC or other political committee
limits higher to candidates facing wealthy opponents financing their own elections
$95,000 per two year election cycle as follows:
per cycle to candidates
per cycle to all national party committees
($20,000 to $57,500
to all national party committees and maximum $37,500 to PACs)
Multi-Candidate Committee can give ...
(committee with over 50 contributors, registered for a minimum of 6 months
and (with exception of state party committees) has made contributions to 5 or more federal candidates)
Other Political Committees can give ...
Campaign Finance Reform: A Libertarian Primer
History of Campaign Commercials
Museum of the Moving Image
Truth or Fiction
Annenberg Political Fact Check
Project Vote Smart
Cost of Voting in the American States
PolitiFact Texas contains its own Truth-O-Meter plus an
Abbott-O-Meter and a Perry-O-Meter.
A complete list of candidates as well as all voting rules and regulations
- and probably a list of polling places - is at