POS 336 Assignment 3

POS 336 Assignment 3 - Lauren Napolitano March 12, 2010 POS...

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Lauren Napolitano March 12, 2010 POS 336 Assignment 3 There are several theories explaining why voters choose to vote for the candidates they do. Some theories seem straightforward, such as ideas that the media has an influence on people’s choices. Other theories, however, delve a little deeper to describe the logic and reasoning behind voter’s decisions. In the article, “The Unpolitical Animal, How political science understands voters.” by Louis Menand, he offers three theories to explain voter choices. The first theory explains that electoral outcomes are basically arbitrary, and that the portion of the public that votes based on issues is far outweighed by the portion that votes based on slogans, misinformation, etc. This theory places little faith in the American public, as it paints a sad picture of voter reasoning. The second theory offered in the article claims that elite opinion drives people to vote the way they do. The issues and policy implications are debated among elites and their preferences and conclusions are then passed on to the general public through cues. The third theory, and also the one that Menand finds to be the most plausible, is one that describes people’s reliance on something called heuristics. Heuristics is the proper term for the shortcuts people take, in order to obtain information. The theory of heuristics says that the cues people respond to in terms of voting for a candidate are shortcuts. It turns out that these shortcuts are actually an adequate way of forming political preferences. The political conclusions and judgments made from heuristics are quite a good substitute for actually gathering mounds of information. This theory of heuristics is not only plausible, but paints a much better
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picture as far as faith in American voters. The theory of heuristics is a sound way to assess voter behavior, as it looks at the average voter and how he or she gets information. In Chapter Six of Abramson, Aldrich, and Rohde, survey findings about the voter’s view of candidate traits are presented (147). People were asked to evaluate Obama and McCain on their display of traits such as moral, really cares about people like you, knowledgeable, intelligent, honest, and more. Of the major-party vote, people ranked McCain higher than Obama (the extremely well category) in all categories except one. This data shows that although people may consider personality traits to be important, it is not their sole base for choosing a candidate, since Obama won the election. What this does is provide an argument against the first theory of voter behavior, which claimed that people vote based on arbitrary reasons rather than issues. This data helps the theory of heuristics because it proves that people are interested in the issues and the platforms of the candidates. There was an article published in the New York Times during the 2008
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This note was uploaded on 05/04/2010 for the course POS 336 taught by Professor Shafer during the Spring '10 term at ASU.

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POS 336 Assignment 3 - Lauren Napolitano March 12, 2010 POS...

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