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Rationalizing Irrational Voting Behavior

On the very first day of government class we took a survey to see where our own peers fell on the political spectrum. Later, we had a mock vote for the upcoming presidential election. The results were as follows:

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I was puzzled by the results in class because I wanted to understand why people voted the way they did. Government class had just begun, so I wondered how people have enough knowledge or any at all to make such a massive decision. I happened to be guilty of this impulsive behavior. Personally, I had minimal knowledge about each of the corresponding views of a particular political party, but yet I voted the way I did because “that’s what my parents are.” I then questioned if people who associate themselves with a particular group, whether that be yellow-dog democrats, right wing Christians, Jews, or Hispanics, choose a candidate solely based on their groups stereotypic view point. Gallup Poll proved this to be true: “…Hispanics of differing demographic backgrounds all tend to solidly support Obama. It thus appears that there isn’t much beyond a shared Hispanic ethnicity or identity that explains Hispanic voting patterns.” In other words, Hispanics will typically vote democratic not because they find the candidate to be truly amazing, but because their group tends to follow party regardless of the issues. The problem with this trend is that many people are voting for a particular candidate without really understanding the candidate’s views on issues and how they will directly affect them. This leads me to question whether this is rational voting behavior.

Similarly, Pew Research Center asked the public if they would like to see Barack Obama re-elected president in 2012 or if they would prefer that any Republican candidate win the election. The results were as follows:

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Once again, this reaffirms large parties inability to vote based on the issues because now conservatism is associated with being a republican and liberals are now associated with being a democrat. However, this was not the intention of our Founding Fathers. What was intended was that all ranges of the political spectrum be found in both parties.

I was curious to see how many people changed their views over the course of the year due to the topics we discussed in class and to test the validity of my findings. (Results below)

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This proves that by educating the young people, they are able to form their own opinion. By having an educated and passionate viewpoint, young voters will become more inclined to participate in the upcoming election. Voting will no longer be considered a true burden, but instead the young voters will be enthused to say, “I voted today!” It is important that we encourage teens to discover their own view and maybe even challenge them to differentiate from their parent’s political views. By doing so, the amount of participation will sky rocket! Not only should young adults be encouraged to form their own opinions, but also those individuals who occupy large groups or races. They too, should learn to vote rationally. If you think your views might have changed over the course of the year or you want to test to see if you have remained firm in your position, you can take this typology quiz again at: http://www.peoplepress.org/typology/quiz/

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