Voting Behavior

Long term factors may influence who an individual decides to vote for on Election Day. These include partisanship and ideological beliefs. The party an individual supports is highly influenced by their views on certain issues. One may also simply have an inherited support for a party in hopes of preserving family values and traditions. Another closely associated factor is ideological beliefs. This includes whether one is considered liberal or conservative based on their stance on major policies. Ideological beliefs greatly influence party identification. Liberals tend to identify as democrats while conservatives tend to support the Republican Party. According to the Michigan School model (1950s) of voting behavior, voters develop what is termed a “funnel of causality”. It describes how outside and inside influences (such as economic conditions, values, party identification, friends, the media, and Issue positions) determine who the individual decides to vote for on Election Day. Some factors influence others (ex. the way the media portrays a candidate can have a huge impact on how America in general views him/her).


Short terms factors also influence the voting behavior of an individual. These include issues, attitude towards a candidate (based either on appearance, previous performance, or both), campaign events, or current economic conditions. A simple issue can be the deciding factor of whom an individual votes for. For example, if a female is considered a conservative republican but doesn’t like that a republican candidate is supportive of a pregnant female having the choice of whether or not to abort her child, she may opt to vote outside of her desired party. A voter may also use the candidate’s previous performance to determine how they may do if they are re-elected. This is common among incumbents. Commonly, those who are ill-informed about politics may use cognitive heuristics (aka cognitive shortcuts) in determining who they want as their president. This may include things like the attractiveness of the candidate, popularity, who they’re related to, or what their hobbies are. In terms of economic conditions, if the incumbent is a democrat but they feel they are in personal economic hardship, they may be influenced to vote republican believing immediate change is necessary. This may also include one’s preference of a party nominee. Another huge factor is how a candidate performs in debates. The idea of momentum can influence how many votes an individual receives. If one performs less than or equal to what they were expected to, they can easily lose momentum to someone who exceeds expectations.


Gender differences can also impact voting. According to Morgan (2015), “…childhood socialization, adult socialization, female autonomy, and attitudinal…” are four theoretical, “…individual-level accounts…” that explain gender gaps in voting behavior in Latin America (pg. 7). Childhood interactions with parents, the kind of household a female lives in as an adult (ex. single mother, married, not-married, etc.), the amount of autonomy a female has (compared to the traditional view of women), and separate attitudes based on gender can influence an individual’s political stance. The idea that the traditional and modern view of the household is very distinct is a very important factor in this discussion. Women are becoming more independent and fulfilling roles designated for men.