Us Voter Participation In a pluralist country such as America, there are numerous opinions over what society’s goals should be, and the best method of achieving them. In theory, every American citizen has an equal say in the political affairs of this county. By participating in politics, people air their voices and thereby contribute to nation through representatives, hence the term representative democracy. It may seem to be beyond argument that political participation is a key objective in all democratic institutions. However, there is room for legitimate disagreement about the health of our democracy, in regards to the extent of civic participation.
This raises the important question of how much participation there actually is in the United States. How many Americans take part in activities such as voting, attending political meetings, joining political parties, or even discussing politics with their neighbors? The answer is surprisingly few for a country that prides itself on democracy. However, is this low level of participation hurting our nation? In some respects, Americans are as ambivalent about political participation as they are about democratic values. On the one hand, large numbers of Americans believe that the ordinary citizen should play a part in public affairs. On the other hand, relatively few Americans actually take the initiative do so. Americans often hypocritically express the view that they are obligated as citizens to engage in politics, even though they are not involved in any real form of political activity.
This view suggests that Americans tend to be more passive than active political participants. Active participation includes attending political rallies, meetings, and fundraisers, trying to influence government, joining interest groups, and of course voting. And this brings us to the controversial topic of voter turn out in the United States. According to one common view, the quality of democracy depends upon the extent to which voters use their rights to vote and to take part in public life. It is healthy if memberships of political parties are large and active, and if attendance at political rallies is high, and so on.
Some nations believe that it is essential to take part in political life, and that the state should encourage, and even oblige them to do so. For example, some countries consider that it is vital to ensure that a high proportion of eligible voters cast their ballots. Accordingly, they make voting compulsory, as in Australia. An alternative view suggests that it does not matter whether citizens actually participate in politics, but it is vital that they should have the right to do so, irrespective of whether they choose to use it. This is perhaps the case in the United States, where voter turnout hovers around an astounding fifty percent, which is lowest among all industrialized democracies (Roskin 113.) In a democracy, a high priority is typically associated with voting (on a national scale), as a way for people to influence policy makers. By electing officials to represent their opinions, citizens are actively partaking in policy making. Citizens choose between candidates competing for the authority to make public policy.
Because of America’s democratic government, people declare their preferences for and against officials and policies through elections, and the distribution of their votes is a representation of their conflicts on selected political matters. And with such important political matters affecting the every day lives of Americans, why is political participation so low in our country? If voting is the fundamental method of political expression in our representative democracy, why do so many Americans take their democratic right for granted? While nearly half of the voting population does not engage in civic participation, there is concrete evidence on who is actually participating. And these numbers are heavily accounted for, and studied by scientists. Voter percentages of various groups are often evaluated by scientists to determine trends in the election process. This in turn may help determine some of the causes of such a low turnout.
Political scientists have observed a number of trends within different voting groups. They have come to a conclusion that the percentages of voting groups can be directly related to the social economic status of citizens. In hopes of uncovering clues behind the mysterious participation rates, voter turnout can be investigated through comparison of social groups. Scientists can all agree on a few aspects regarding these groups. “The more educated tend to have greater familiarity with potential issues and participate most heavily, with college graduates voting at nearly twice the rate of those who did not complete high school (Lindblom 108.)” In addition, two other primary groups who represent a high percentage of voter turnout are the elderly and higher income citizens.
Educated and higher income voters essentially go hand-in-hand, since those who are educated tend to have a higher income level. The reason put forth for the positive relationship between income and voting is that people who are struggling with everyday existence are not going to have the time, the energy, or the resources to partake in nonessential activities such as electoral participation. Now with knowledge of what groups are primarily voting at higher percentages, it still remains hazy as to the reasoning behind people not voting. Political scientists have pondered this question for decades, and have come up with a plethora of reasons, but no concrete answers when dealing with the causes of low voter turnout. However, there are many theories regarding the United State’s embarrassing lack of political participation.
Many citizens simply do not vote because of common misconceptions involving numerous factors of the election process. Perhaps low voter turnout can be traced to various aspects revolving around a naive mindset of many Americans. One example that could sadly have a detrimental affect is a level of political interest. Many people do not think that the political process pertains to them. They question why they should get involved in politics at all.
These people, unfortunately, are the Americans who have no concept as to what a democracy stands for. They do not realize that one voice can make a difference in our government. And this brings up the unpretentious topic of basic intelligence. As previously stated, educated people vote at a relatively higher percentage than those who are not. At a higher level, education improves cognitive skills which allow for increased understanding of the political process and the political issues that surround it. Essentially, people are more likely to take part in something wh …