Voting Behavior

voting

voting, method of registering collective approval or disapproval of a person or a proposal. The term generally refers to the process by which citizens choose candidates for public office or decide political questions submitted to them. However, it may also describe the formal recording of opinion of a group on any subject. In either sense it is a means of transforming numerous individual desires into a coherent and collective basis for decision.

In early human history voting was simply the communication of approval or disapproval by tribal members of certain proposals offered by a chieftain, who typically held an elected office. Eventually in political voting, the ballot came into use, a sophisticated form of which is the voting machine. In modern democracies voting is generally considered the right of all adult citizens. In the past, however, voting was often a privilege limited by stringent property qualifications and restricted to the upper classes, and it is only in recent times that universal suffrage has become a fact. In the United States this was accomplished in 1920 when women were given the right to vote by the Nineteenth Amendment, but many African Americans in the South continued to be denied voting rights into the 1960s (see integration). While in democracies voting is, generally, a voluntary right, in totalitarian systems it is virtually a compulsory duty, and nonvoting may be considered an act of disapproval of government policies.

In recent years a great deal of study has been devoted to the analysis of voting behavior in nonauthoritarian nations. Through the use of complex sampling surveys attempts have been made to determine on what basis a voter makes a decision. Findings reveal that voting is influenced not only by political differences but also by religious, racial, and economic factors. For this reason nearly all politicians rely on a sampling survey, or poll, to gauge the attitudes of their constituencies. Also a subject for considerable study in the United States is that large segment of the population that refrains from voting. Research has shown that nonvoting is caused by factors that include social cross pressures, new residency in the community, and relative political ignorance or lack of interest.

See also election; referendum.

See G. Almond and S. Verba, The Civic Culture (1963); A. Campbell et al., The American Voter (1960); R. Lane, Political Life (1959); L. Milbraith, Political Participation (1965); R. Farquharson, The Theory of Voting (1969); F. Greenstein, The American Party System and the American People (2d ed. 1970).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2015, The Columbia University Press.

Voting Behavior: Selected full-text books and articles

Red State, Blue State, Rich State, Poor State: Why Americans Vote the Way They Do By Andrew Gelman; David Park; Boris Shor; Joseph Bafumi; Jeronimo Cortina Princeton University Press, 2010 (Expanded edition)
Unconventional Wisdom: Facts and Myths about American Voters By Karen M. Kaufmann; John R. Petrocik; Daron R. Shaw Oxford University Press, 2008
The Angry American: How Voter Rage Is Changing the Nation By Susan J. Tolchin Westview Press, 1999 (2nd edition)
The Disappearing American Voter By Ruy A. Teixeira Brookings Institution, 1992
Economic Voting By Han Dorussen; Michaell Taylor Routledge, 2002
Issue Voting and Party Realignment By Donald S. Strong University of Alabama Press, 1977
The Catholic Vote By John H. Fenton Hauser Press, 1960
Anti-Gay Rights: Assessing Voter Initiatives By Stephanie L. Witt; Suzanne McCorkle Praeger Publishers, 1997
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