Question Description

Chapter 8 Summary–Political Participation and Voting

Chapter 8 examines various types of political participation; however, the important focus of this Chapter is on voting behavior. The voting section which begins on page 305 first reviews the struggle to ensure voting rights for all citizens. Then it asks how people participate in American politics and the various means by which this is accomplished. Moreover, there is a discussion of online political participation–something that was not possible in the past–that begins on page 297.

The chart, “Who Made Up the Electorate in 2012” on page 317 provides interesting data on who participated in that presidential election. Beginning on page 310, the Chapter reviews the voting preferences and voting behavior of various demographic groups in America. Individuals from different backgrounds often vote in well-established patterns over time and this is part of the division between the two major political parties and ultimately who wins and loses elections. This information is a good foundation of who voted for either the Democratic or Republican candidates for Congress in the 2018 congressional elections which resulted in the Democrats taking over House of Representatives as well as what might occur in the upcoming 2020 presidential campaign.

Take a look at the State Electoral Laws and Participation that begins on page 327.

The Chapter ends with an attempt to explain political participation and notes socioeconomic status factors in voting, civil involvement and then issues and concerns that might limit actual voter turnout. Consider what the voting results were for the 2014 Midterm (congressional) elections (turnout, who voted, whot did not vote) and what that means for the country after the 2016 presidential election.

Chapter 8 is about political attitudes and voting behavior. Voter turnout is always highest in a presidential election year as 2016 and from that point voter turnout decreases when there is not an election for president as in the congressional elections of 2014 and 2018. Voter participation for the 2020 presidential election will, again, be higher than any other election in America. Voter participation is critical for a democracy and America does not enjoy a high voter turnout; indeed, it is among the lowest in the democratic world. This is an good chapter and should inform and get all of us thinking about the importance of citizen involvement in America’s political process during as the 2020 presidential campaign and election unfold over the next almost two years (Presidential election is November, 2020).

Voting is a fundamental right in a democracy; however, in America, voter turnout (that is, those who actually vote) is among the lowest in the democratic world. Indeed, voter turnout in America is actually lower in percentage terms than in the 1950s. This despite the fact the barriers for individuals who otherwise qualify to vote have been eliminated.

What are some of the significant reasons or causes for the low voter turnout in America? Describe the differences in the levels of voter turnout for presidential as opposed to other types of elections such as for the presidency, Congress, state officials and local governments. Is voter apathy and alienation such a deeply rooted problem in American that increasing voter turnout might prove to be very difficult?

What do you propose as ways to increase voter participation in elections? Will new technologies such as the Internet offer solutions to the low voter turnout in America? Does early voting increase voter participation? Finally, if voter turnout is increased in the future, will that lead to an improvement of the American governmental system? That is, will government function better if more people participate in elections than do now? Was there a larger (or smaller) turnout for the November, 2016 presidential election? Why or why not? Which political party, if either, benefited from the level of voter participation during the 2018 congressional elections?

Be as creative as you can.