Monday, September 08, 2008

Why Do You Vote the Way You Vote?

One evening last week before the start of one of my graduate classes, some of the students and I were talking about the upcoming presidential election and all of the historical aspects of the Conventions and particular vicissitudes of this specific election. Later as I was driving home, I reflected on our pre-class conversation and wondered, “Why do people vote the way they vote?”

A brief investigation into this question revealed some interesting findings. For example:

hockeydino suggests, “How about voting for someone who stands for defending the constitution? How about voting for someone who will bring our troops home around the world and protect our freedom here? How about someone with a proven track record for never raising taxes? How about supporting someone who is not on the take by special interest groups? How about voting on principle rather than emotions that is fueled by media human drama stories?

An article linked to the APA (American Psychological Association) website addresses some of the “psychological reasons” why people vote the way they do.

Another site, the guardian, ponders the extent to which people vote “with their head” (what they think) and/or the extent to which they vote “with their heart” (how they feel).

A very intriguing article, “Why Voters Vote the Way They Do” by Bill Steigerwald, asks fascinating questions such as, “How do voters choose their candidates? How do they process all the political information that they are bombarded with so they can make intelligent choices during elections like next week’s primaries?” He then goes on to talk about some of the research results Richard R. Lau, a politics professor at Rutgers, and his colleague, David Redlawsk, wrote about in their 2006 book, How Voters Decide: Information Processing in Election Campaigns.

I also revisited what my Dad once said to me, as I wrote about in my pop-psych book, Mom and Dad’s Pearls of Wisdom: You Gotta Love ’Em, prior to the 1960 presidential election. I shall share this with you below:


Elected Officials

One Saturday evening in the fall of 1960, I was shooting darts at my father’s VFW post with my dad and a few of his friends. When the conversation turned to the upcoming presidential election, I began telling everyone why I thought John F. Kennedy was the best candidate. Some in the group agreed with me, and some disagreed.

In between games, when most of the players were either ordering more beer or getting rid of it, I went over to my father and whispered, “How can Mr. Arnold say Kennedy’s just another politician?”

“He just doesn’t like Kennedy,” my father flatly replied.

“But, Dad, John Kennedy is such a great leader, a brilliant thinker, and a—”

“Bill,” my father interrupted, “when it comes to what people say about a candidate in any election,

If you agree with him, he’s a statesman;

if you disagree with him, he’s a politician.

(p. 27)


As I further reflected on this November’s presidential election, I also wondered, “When I go into the booth and cast my vote, to what extent will I be considering…

  • What’s best for me personally? My family? Future generations? My community? The United States? The world?

  • The candidates’ education, public speaking ability, religion, family, previous experiences, party affiliation, running mate, gender, ethnicity, and likableness?

  • Am I voting the way I have told others I would vote (or was I saying one thing and herewith doing something else)?

  • Is he/they “good” or the lesser of the two options (or would I prefer to write in someone else)?

Obviously, there are many reasons such as those above, as to why we vote the way we vote. The most important thing is that we vote! However, I also urge that before you cast your ballot give some serious thought as to why you are voting the way you are voting.

Question: What are some of your reasons why you will vote the way you will vote?



Anonymous said...

As a 45-year old conservative southern woman, it is sad but true that I have never voted "for" anyone - only chosen the lesser of two evils. Therefore, I suppose that fear drives my vote in trying to keep out the representative who would do the most harm based on their track record and qualifications as well as the effect on the country as a whole. Unfortunately, I see no good outcome in this election no matter which candidate prevails, I believe we will experience riots and a divisiveness such that this country has not seen since the Civil War.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Anonymous,

Thanks for stopping by and offering your experiences and thoughts. Yeah, I hear you – and in my view, the current election processes and procedures may prevent some very good candidates from running e.g., word is that one has to have at least a $200 mil. war chest in order to run for president).

I do not know of any compelling reasons against what you are predicting for the future, although I indeed hope you are wrong (as I suspect you might as well) – that would be sad.

Interesting considerations – you certainly have given me pause to ponder many issues.

Thanks again – hope to see you again down the road,


Anonymous said...

I try to determine what are the most important issues for my family, both now and in the future. Economic views, Supreme Court appointments, national security, and the environment are my main issues. I then look at the candidates and see which one is most in line with the way I feel the nation should move forward. Sometimes I weigh future conditions heavier than current ones. For instance, I may agree with tax increases over the next few years if it means we are able to pay down the national debt, thus leaving a more stable country more my children.

The main thing I worry about when it comes to voting is that many people vote without being informed. It is so easy to get swept up by the emotion of speeches and be convinced by style. For example, I find it interesting how many former Hillary supporters are now supporting Palin because they "feel a connection" with her. Politically, Palin and Clinton are polar opposites on just about every issue. If voters stuck strictly to the issues I doubt they would even consider the switch. I'm not trying to make a political statement. It's just an easy example.

Regardless of which candidate/party wins, one positive outcome is that this election seems to have re-energized America in politics. Hopefully the victors will lead the country in a positive direction and the populus will stay energized. After all, we're only about three years away from when the next primary season starts heating up.

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hello Maconole,

Thanks so much for sharing your experience and poignant thoughts – consistent with your Comments in the past.

Firstly, I would feel more confident of the election results if I knew everyone was as thoughtful and thorough as you are when voting. And being sure to weigh one’s own values against each candidate’s indeed is critical – one of my favorite clich├ęs, albeit sexist/gender-specific sounding, is: “He who stands for nothing can fall for anything.” And while I do not want to appear to be supporting anyone in particular, your Clinton-versus-Palin example is right on the money. I mentioned to someone in the gym last night that from everything I’ve seen, “gender” is the only thing they have in common.

Lastly, this election certainly seems to have peaked interest throughout the country – among many reasons being the economy, the war and an escalating lack of faith in government. Nonetheless, I hope the next election starts gearing up three years from now – the current “election” and all of its campaigning seems to have been around for decades… LOL.

Thanks again, Maconole!


DH said...

Hi Dr Bill,
Good topic! I generally look at the candidates based on their values and are they people of they act/live according to what they believe. I look at character...things like--are they manipulating the truth to make themselves look favorable? If the candidate feels a need to manipulate the American people, I have to ask myself why are they doing there something wrong with who they really are? No one will match my ideas or values perfectly. I want someone in the presidential position that is concerned about the country and the people. They make tough decisions that I might not always agree with. I ask myself--are they genuine in their pursuit to care for the country and do what they feel is best for the country? Or, are they self-absorbed? (I read your other post on self absorption). I don't want someone in the office who is power hungry,looking for status and/or prestige. So basically I look at values first, then character and integrity, and will they do things for the people (rather than themselves and their pesonal friends). The less self absorption, the better!

Dr. Bill Emener said...

Hi again DH,

Great to see you again. I've been out of town since last Friday morning -- mid-semester R & R (ust what I needed).

I could not agree with your thorough list of personal attributes of of political candidate! Unfortunately, as I look at some of those who we have elected in the recent past, we haven't done so well. And for sure we need people such as you describe in our governmental positions now!

Hope all's well with you.

'til next time,