5th AP History
January 13, 2003
The Responsible Electorate
V.O. Key, Jr.
Election returns identify which candidate gets the most votes from the electorate, but in essence, that's all it really tells us. Why does one candidate get more votes than another? We cannot assume it's because of his past record or promises for the future. It's interesting to examine what make the electorate vote as it does.
Instruments such as the Gallup Poll have helped experts determine voting behaviors of a large number of people. Preliminary findings many years ago lead researchers to believe that people voted according to where they were socio-economically. However, there were exceptions to the rule, often dependent upon how optimistic or pessimistic a person was. A person's' political foundation and background also played a key role in how he voted.
Many feel today that the electorate does not always make informed decisions. Rather, they are manipulated by candidates who play on the electorate's origins, occupations, residence, etc. Voters are looking for a certain image or characteristic. Politicians look to see what the electorate might be responsive to and then provide it worth obvious neglect for political substance.
Ultimately, Key points out that "voters are not fools." He does feel that some voters approach the task in strange ways, but the majority of the electorate approach decision making "as rationally and responsibly as we should expect, given the clarity of the alternatives presented to it and the character of the information available to it." He does not feel that today's American electorate is easily manipulated. Instead, it studies the issues, evaluates the government's performance, and assesses personality and a potential leader's character. We can have faith that the electorate will continue to take its voting right seriously and use it to maintain and strengthen our democratic form of government.
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