AP®︎/College US Government and Politics
Explore voting behavior with four key motivations: party-line voting, rational choice, retrospective voting, and prospective voting. Understand how voters may be influenced by political party, personal benefit, past performance, or future expectations when choosing a candidate. Engage in political science discussions with these classifications.
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- What we're going to do in this video is start to think about voting behavior, and in particular, we're going to start classifying motivations for why someone votes for a particular candidate, and I'm going to introduce some terms that will impress your political science friends, but you'll see that they map two things that we see every day or even behaviors that we see in ourselves in a pretty intuitive way. So one pretty clear reason why someone might vote for one candidate or another is because of their political party, and so this would be referred to as party-line voting. Party-line voting. So if your family has always been a Republican, and you're a Republican, and you just always support the Republican candidate, that would be party-line voting. Now, another behavior that political scientists will often talk about is the idea of rational choice. Rational choice, and this is the idea that someone would choose to vote for one candidate or another based on a perception of which candidate is going to benefit them the most, which one would it be rational for their own wellbeing. So for example, if you said, "Hey, you know what? "I really care about the corporate tax rate. "I'm the CEO of a corporation. "If my corporate tax rate were to go down, "then I would be able to have a more thriving business, "and I think one candidate is going to do better for me "on the corporate tax rate, "and I'm gonna vote for them because of that," that would be your rational choice, your model, what's driving your voting behaviors, what's gonna benefit me. Now, another classification that you will hear talked about is retrospective voting. Retrospective, and this is the idea that, hey, I'm just gonna vote for someone if it seems like they've been doing a good job, or if it seems like things have been improving under their watch. You're looking in retrospect, and this will often be for incumbents, and say, "Hey, look, yeah, the last term was pretty good with them, "so I'm gonna vote for them again." Now, the last classification we will introduce in this video is the opposite of retrospective voting, and this is looking into the future, prospective voting. Prospective voting, and here, you might look at one candidate and say, "Look, I think that they will be better for the country "over the next four years." You're not even necessarily thinking about your own personal benefit. You're thinking about the country as a whole, but you're looking forward. You're looking prospectively and thinking about, hey, candidate A I think is gonna do a better job, so I'm gonna vote for her. So with these classifications out of the way, let's look at some statements that you might hear from folks when they think about who they are voting for. So here, it says, "The economy has been growing "under Clinton so he has my vote." So pause this video, and how would you classify this motivation for voting? Well, here, the person, the voter, is talking about the economy in the recent past. So this right over here is retrospective voting. So I'll draw a line right over there. That is retrospective voting. Clinton seems to have been doing a good job, where the economy's been growing under him, so he has my vote. Now what about this statement? "I'm a lifelong Democrat so Obama has my vote." Pause this video. What type of voting behavior is that? Well, here, the individual is clearly motivated by their party line. They're not talking about Obama being good for them, in particular. They're not talking about what Obama's gonna do in the future or what he's done in the recent past. They're just talking about his party and that being the motivation for voting for him. So that would be party line voting. Now what about this statement? "Bush has ideas that will be really good for this country so I'm going to vote for him." Pause this video. What type of voting behavior is that? Well, here, the voter's thinking prospectively, thinking about, well, what will Bush do for the country in the near future, ideas that will be really good for this country? So that is prospective voting, and then one more example... So if someone were to say, "I think Mitt Romney will lower my taxes "so I'm going to vote for him," what would that be? Pause the video again. Well, we have one choice left here, and that is indeed rational choice. This voter is voting based on what is going to benefit them. Mitt Romney's gonna lower their taxes, so they're gonna vote for them, and to be clear, it's not that everyone's behavior falls clearly into one of these categories. It oftentimes will be a mix of these categories. In fact, oftentimes someone might say, "Hey, I like Obama 'cause he's a Democrat, "and I think he's going to be good for me," and things might've been good under him, or the perception is that things are good under him, and they might believe that it's gonna be good going forward. Many voters will be motivated by a combination of these.