A high-level overview of political participation analyzed through how many people turn out to vote in elections.
Political scientists study political participation by analyzing how many people turn out to vote in elections. There are noticeable differences in voter turnout between different types of elections, state-controlled elections, and national-controlled elections.
|compulsory voting||Laws that require citizens to register and vote in local and national elections.|
|midterm elections||The congressional elections that occur in even-numbered years between presidential elections, in the middle of each presidential term.|
|political efficacy||A citizen’s belief that their vote matters and can influence government policies.|
|presidential elections||Elections that take place every four years, in which voters elect the president and the vice-president.|
|voter registration||A requirement that eligible voters enroll on an electoral roll before they can vote.|
|voter turnout||The number of registered voters who vote in an election.|
|demographics||Characteristics of a population, like age, race, and education. Political scientists use demographic information to study changes in the makeup of a population.|
State voting laws influence voter turnout: State laws can affect voter turnout. Some state laws create structural barriers that make it more difficult to vote (for example, requiring voters to present state IDs) and others try to make voting easy (by allowing early voting or election-day registration). These voter registration laws and procedures are determined at the state level, and therefore vary a great deal between states.
Demographics help to predict voter turnout: Political scientists study the demographic characteristics of a voting population in order to predict voter turnout rates in an election. Demographic characteristics include race, sex, religion, income, geographic region, income level, and other identifying factors.
These characteristics are associated with varying levels of political engagement (interest in politics and involvement in political activity) and political efficacy (belief that political participation can affect the policies of government). Therefore, news organizations and campaign managers carefully study the demographic characteristics of voters in their region when analyzing elections and formulating campaign strategies.
Many factors influence voter choice: When voters decide which candidate to support in an election, they are influenced by a number of factors: their own demographic characteristics, their political ideology and party identification, the characteristics of the candidate, and contemporary political issues. Of these factors, party identification is the strongest driver of voter choice; that is, the majority of voters identify with one party and vote for that party consistently.
Voters who don't strongly identify with a party are more likely to decide based on other factors, such as the candidate’s past record and future policy proposals, major political events happening around the time of the election, or the candidate’s appearance, personality, race, and gender identification.
What is political efficacy, and why is it important?
How does the type of election (midterm vs. presidential) influence voter turnout?
How do demographics influence voter choice? Why do campaign managers study this data?