Chapter 13Voting Behavior: The Impact of Public Opinion and†††††††††††††††††††††††† ††††††† ††††††††† †††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††††the Media



Voting Patterns


Demographics are determined every year based on:

  • Age
  • Socioeconomic make-up
  • Place of residence and shifting population movement
  • Ethnic make-up


The impact of immigrants has been a key factor in the nationís population increase.They came mainly in three trends:


        Pre-Civil War (English, Irish, and Germans)

        Post Civil War (Italians, Jews, Asians, Poles, and Russians)

        Post WWII (Central and Latin America and Asia)


Things that greatly affect voting patterns include:


  • Religious and ethnic backgrounds
  • Lower income brackets and laborers who tend to vote democratic
  • Business owners and white-collar workers tend to vote republican
  • The youth vote has been beginning to change and usually support more democratic, but there is still lower voter turn outs for the 18-20 year old age bracket.
  • There are a growing number of independent voters and there is a greater overall Democratic registration, but voters tend to respond more to the individual candidate.


Party Identification


Party identification is a key factor in determining voter turnout and voter preference, so you would think Democrats would have the edge.Until 1994 Democrats dominated both houses after WWII.Recent trend have shown that voters (especially in the 1996 election) have not straight party line voted.


There has been an inconsistency between voter participation and the amount and type of election coverage provided I the campaigns.A decline in party identification has shown that eligible voter would rather not vote in elections.






The history of suffrage has been characterized by minority groups fighting for their right to vote.When the Constitution was ratified only white male property owners were allowed to vote and now there is a potential for over 200 million people to vote in an election.


  • By the 1800s all religious qualifications were eliminated.
  • Property considerations were not in existence by the middle of the nineteenth century.
  • The Fifteenth amendment allowing African Americans to vote was countered by things like literacy laws and poll taxes.
  • Brown vs. The Board of Education in 1954 and the Voting Acts of 1965 changed the poll tax and allowed blacks to legally vote.
  • The 23rd Amendment in 1961 allowed D.C. residents to vote and the 26th allowed everyone to vote at the age of 18.


The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited the use of any registration requirement that resulted in discrimination and paved the way for the involvement of the federal government to enforce the law.


People in mental institutions, the homeless, convicted felons, and dishonorably discharged soldiers have been denied the right to vote in some states.


Public Opinion


Public opinion can be defined as the attitudes, perceptions, and viewpoints individuals hold about politics and government.


Parallels between the factors that influence voting patterns and factor molding public opinion include:

        The family

        The schools

        The church

        Molders of public opinion

        The mass media


Opinion Polls


Pollsters want to find what Americans are thinking so poll-taking has increased in scope and importance. The qualities that can be measured include the intensity of peopleís beliefs, wants and needs translated into policy, and public opinion on any given issue.

Overall, most polls have accurately predicted voter trends and have been responsible in the manner in which they have been taken and reported, but polling organizations have recently came under fire in the 2000 and 2004 elections.


The Mass Media


From the coverage of the ratification of the Constitution to the current war in Iraq, the mass media has been a main source of information for Americans.Everything from radio, television, newspapers, and magazines has influenced Americans to vote for specific parties and candidates.Many events in television have lead to increased awareness of the importance that the medium plays in keeping the public informed.


The Internet


Americans desire for information has aided in the development of new technologies, which eventually led to the growth of the Internet.


Media Coverage


Many candidates feel that the media is unfair in the manner in which they cover a campaign or administration.Several presidents have developed successful strategies to control media access by controlling the flow of information, limiting access of the media, and talking onl