INFLUENCESON VOTING BEHAVIOR
Influenceson voting Behavior
Theimportance of elections cannot be gainsaid as far as safeguarding thefreedom and rights of citizens in any country is concerned. Indeed,elections are a fundamental component of democracy. This isespecially considering that it provides the citizenry an opportunityto determine the manner in which their resources would be allocatedthrough selecting the individual who would be representing them.However, the conduction of elections and the overall selection ofindividuals involve some dynamics that determine the direction ortrends that voting takes. Indeed, scholars have acknowledged that thevoting patterns in any country are a function of quite a number offactors.
Oneof the most fundamental influences on voting behavior is the media.It is well noted that the media has the capacity to reach the entireelectorate and has a considerable influence on the things that theyknow pertaining to a political activity and even policies of parties.In the past, the broadcast media used to reach the widest proportionof the population (Dahl,2000,pp. 34). However, the social media has overtaken broadcast media witha large proportion of individuals getting a large proportion ofinformation from it. It is noted that there are no controls on thethings that may be transmitted in the social media (Diamond&Plattner,2006,pp. 33). Nevertheless, the media is required to be impartial on allpolitical matters and must offer all sides of an argument equally.Researchers have noted that a large number of newspapers that arepublished in Britain undertake a lot of their own campaigning onissues that are in line with the conservative party. On the samenote, tabloid press is known to particularly campaign for a specificpolitical view over others in an effort to swing the readers’political preference. Similarly, the media has been seen asresponsible for assisting in the reinforcement of the views of thepolitical party or individuals, thereby determining the attitude ofthe voters towards a particular party (Farrell,2001,pp. 42).
Inaddition, the voting patterns may be determined by the ethniccomposition of the society within which the exercise is taking place.Ethnic groups have specific norms and rules that determine the thingsthat they hold as appropriate (Dahl,2000,pp. 45). It goes without saying that these norms and values areshared by almost every individual within that ethnic group and areoften used in making decisions pertaining to where they stand.Research has shown that the ethnic vote in the United Kingdom hasheavily favored the Labour Party, with 80% of Asian and black votegoing in this direction since 1974 (Gidengil,2012,pp. 27). It is worth noting that this component of the electoratebecomes increasingly crucial with increase in the immigrantpopulation in the United Kingdom. The Labour Party has, in general,been more pro-welfare and pro-immigration, which explains why it’sa favorite of the Asian and black populace. On the same note,scholars have noted that there has been a decrease in the vote forLabour Party among the Muslim population as a result of the supportof this party for the Iraq War. This is because the interests ofindividuals of the same ethnic group are, more often than not, linkedor tied together.
Inaddition, the voting patterns may be determined or influenced by theage of the voter. It is worth noting that individuals in differentage groups have varying interests and values, which often determinesthe things that would be appealing to them. This often determines theparty or individuals that would be favoured by a particular group, oreven whether they participate in the elections at all. For instance,voting in the United Kingdom was limited to 21 years of age and aboveas it was believed that the young people had a high likelihood ofquestioning values and supporting radical policies espoused by theLabour Party (Dahl,2000,pp. 56). In addition to the radical streak, young people also have ahigh likelihood of being disaffected and least likely of voting. Forinstance, about 6 out of 10 individuals between the ages of 18 and 24stayed out of the polling booths in the 2001 elections (Gidengil,2012,pp. 33). Recent times have also seen an increase in the potential ofold people’s votes as shown by the increasing capacity ofpensioners’ groups to influence the voting patterns of individuals(Przeworski,2000,pp. 31). Researchers have acknowledged that older voters have a highlikelihood of voting for Conservative Party, probably as a result ofthe fact that they are richer and are increasingly afraid of theeffects of any change in leadership.
Further,the social and economic classes in which individuals belong determinethe voting behaviors. Scholars have noted that in post-war Britain,the voting patterns or behavior have been extremely predictableacross the social and economic classes. Indeed, it was well notedthat more than 90% of the electorate voted to the two main partiesand a similar proportion having strong attachment to certainpolitical parties (Gidengil,2012,pp. 45). This means that there was a reduced probability that theelections would have any swing. Underlining the importance of socialclass is the fact that more than two thirds of the working class hasbeen supporting the Labour Party, while four out of five individualsin the middle class favored the Tories (Diamond&Plattner,2006,pp. 36). This, however, does not mean that entire social classeswould vote in a particular way or even guarantee victory for aparticular party. Indeed, it is well noted that there always existeddeviant voters who would support other parties or go against thecommon trends. For instance, a large proportion of victories byConservatives may be attributed to the support they got from 30% ofthe working class voters (Gidengil,2012,pp. 56).
Lastly,the past performance of a particular party may influence the votingbehavior of individuals. Research has shown that there has been anincrease in the interest that the electorate has on the pastperformance of individuals whether in the private or public sectors.Individuals often look at the record of the leaders and determine themanner in which their decisions have affected them at a personallevel (Przeworski,2000,pp. 33). In instances where the party has made policies that havebeen helpful to the voter, the later is likely to have positiveattitude towards the former and therefore vote for any candidate thatis fielded by the party. Scholars have noted that a large proportionof factors that affect voting behavior are economic in nature. Asmuch as the past performance of parties in opposition and governmentmay influence the voting decisions of the electorate, it is wellnoted that the good leadership and campaigning may be used toinfluence the perception of individuals of the past performance(King,2002,pp. 34).
DAHL,R. A. (2000). Ondemocracy.New Haven, Yale University Press.
DIAMOND,L. J., & PLATTNER, M. F. (2006). Electoralsystems and democracy.Baltimore, Johns Hopkins Univ. Press.
FARRELL,D. M. (2001). Electoralsystems: a comparative introduction.New York, Palgrave.
GIDENGIL,E. (2012). Dominance& decline: making sense of recent Canadian elections.Toronto, University of Toronto Press.
KING,A. S. (2002). Leaders`personalities and the outcomes of democratic elections.Oxford [u.a.], Oxford Univ. Press.
PRZEWORSKI,A. (2000). Democracyand development: political institutions and well-being in the world,1950 – 1990.Cambridge [u.a.], Cambridge Univ. Press.