Political Ideology and Voting Behavior in the Age of Jackson

By Joel H. Silbey | Go to book overview

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quantification and the study of american politics in the age of jackson

Throughout most of its history, the United States has been a mass participation society. Extensive popular involvement in frequent elections has existed as long as the nation itself. Although there have been some persistent restrictions on the right of suffrage, particularly in our early history, voting privileges have generally been widely extended. Certainly since the early nineteenth century most adult white males could vote on a regular basis if they chose to, hold office if they could be nominated and elected, and participate in all of the activities making up the American political culture.

This act of voting--deciding who should be president, congressman, senator, governor, mayor or city councilman--is a form of social comment in a democracy. As people vote they reveal something about themselves, their expectations, their attitude toward the government, their own personal situation, and the social divisions and tensions within their society. In the years since the depression of 1929, for example, there has been a persistent tendency for groups at the lower end of the socioeconomic income scale to vote overwhelmingly Democratic, regardless of residence, race, religion, or previous partisan choice. Similarly, upper class voters have usually supported the Republicans. Both have done so apparently in response to their memories of conditions during the depression years and the policies of the Democratic administrations of the New Deal

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