Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Voting Patterns in American Politics
Adan Makina, PhT, AA, BAS, MA

American voter inclination to party of choice has been experiencing changing trends in the last few decades. According to voter demographics, majority of voters filing up to cast ballots at the county, state, and federal level elections hail mainly from the elderly population (Dubin & Kalsow, 1996). Voting trends among absentee voters have significantly changed in the last 30 year in California especially after the liberalization of absentee voting laws and applications (Dubin & Kalsow, 1996). However, differences in voting patterns do exist among voters in the general and primary elections. According to Dubin and Kalsow (1996), there has been a dramatic increase in voter registration from the beginning of 1970 up to early 1990s when data collected revealed a hike from 4% to 20%. The most lavish campaign in the history of the U.S. Senate was during the epic battle between Dianne Feinstein and Michael Huffington. Huffington accused his opponent of taking advantage of the fraud fraught registration and absentee vote.

Political ideals and ideological differences in American voting system are centered on liberalism and conservatism. Supporters of the Republican Party are more inclined to conservatism while followers of the Democratic Party give preference to liberalist views. Regardless of whether it is a political Armageddon between an incumbent and a challenger or a Republican against a Democrat vying in a hotly contested race, in essence, party affiliates and opponents tend to espouse contrasting ideologies (Snyder & Ting, 2003). Political maturity is taking roots in American politics with the old tradition of sticking to historical party loyalty becoming a thing of the past especially among young voters though a good proportion among older folks may not be susceptible to change. According to Shachar (2003), even to this day, voting successively for a single party without any lapse remains a habit among voters in most countries where democratic elections are the norm.

Party labels, though not having much significance as in the past, remain in effect especially among Independent, Democratic, and Republican followers or supporters. Party labels are mainly used as distinctive brand names to differentiate one party from the other. A party that populates the House may have leverage over other parties especially when the Speaker hails from the party that dominates Congress. That’s why the Speaker of the House wields considerable power in American politics. Usually, as it is in modern American politics, the Speaker’s power is elevated when there is a secure party majority in the House (Cooper & Brady, 1981). Despite having legal powers, having a majority in the House gives the Speaker the clout to maneuver, implement, and organize regulations. In modern American politics, Tip O’Neill may be remembered for the power he wielded when he was the Speaker of the House. 


Cooper, J. & Brady, D.W. (1981). Institutional concept and leadership style: The House from Cannon to Rayburn. The American Political Science Review, Vol. 75, No. 2, pp. 411-425.

Dubin, J.A. & Kalsow, G.A. (1996). Comparing absentee and precinct voters: A view over time. Political Behavior, Vol. 18, No. 4.

Snyder, J.M. & Ting, M.M. (2003). Roll calls, party labels, and elections. Political Analysis, Vol. 11, No. 4: 419-4444. DOI: 10. 1093/pan/mpg025.

Shachar, R. (2003). Party loyalty as habit formation. Journal of Applied Econometrics, 18: 251–269 (2003). DOI: 10.1002/jae.698.

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