Voting Behaviour (US)
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Last updated 22 Mar 2021
The analysis of voting behaviour of citizens, often takes up a huge amount of time by political parties in an attempt to realise where the support base for that party stands. In the US, when studying voting behaviour, the electorate is broadly divided by religion, ethnicity, and region. Note the difference between the US and UK. In the UK, income and class are more predominate in voting behaviour.
Both Republicans and Democrats have support bases that they can consistently rely on to support them. For the Republicans the support base is made up of White Anglo-Saxon Protestants, whereas for the Democrats it is typically those who are Catholic, Jewish and minorities. The US South as well was traditionally Democratic heartland. However these bases are susceptible to change, and change they do!
Religion is a key factor in voting behaviour in the US with different religions or denominations supporting different parties. Religion plays a more significant role in US Politics than it does in the UK. Catholics have generally been seen to vote for the Democrats, as many are immigrants from Ireland or Italy, and these are the groups that have been courted by the Democrats in the past. However, some Catholics will vote for the Republicans over the issue of abortion. In 2012 50% of US Catholics supported Obama.
The Jewish vote is also traditionally a Democrat heartland, with 69% of Jews voting for Obama in 2012, and 79% voting for Gore in 2000. It is argued that this arises from the fact that Jewish people in America see themselves as a minority, and as such believe that the Democrats will do their best to protect them and advance their interests.
The Protestant vote is however a stronghold of the Republican Party with almost 80% of the voting population supporting Republican candidates in 2004 and 2012. This basis for this support lies in the Republican’s social conservatism which appeals to those with strong religious beliefs, especially around the issue of gay marriage, capital punishment, and abortions.
The support of the African American population for the Democrats have never dipped below 83%, and 93% supported Obama’s re-election in 2012. This arises from the likelihood that most African Americans will be on the poorer end of American society, so as such will support Democrat attempts to support them. Historically African Americans have supported the New Deal and Civil Rights, which have helped hugely in the support for the Democrats. In addition to this the Democrats have more role models in the party for African Americans. Finally the Republican stance for being against affirmative action is widely held to be racist among African Americans. Despite this level of support however, turnout is very low among African Americans primarily due to parties ignoring them in electoral cycles.
Turning to Hispanics, the support level is more divided between parties with 44% supporting Bush in 2004, but 71% supporting Obama in 2012. As with African Americans they are more likely to be at the poorer end of American society, and will support Democrat attempts to help them. However, the Hispanic group is widely seen as a new source of votes, that will become more and more significant as time goes on. In some states the total Hispanic population reaches 25% and most are relatively young. The vote is often so divided among Hispanics because of religion and origins of the Hispanics ancestors. Those from Cuba are more likely to support the Republicans over their anti-communist and anti-Castro policies, whereas Hispanics with origins in Mexico and Puerto Rico are more likely to favour the Democrats owing to their stance on immigration.
It is fairly easy to see how regions tend to vote in elections in the US thanks to the safe states that exist. Typically the Pacific Coast and North East will always vote Democrat and the South and Mid West will always vote Republican. The more rural the area the more likely it is to be Republican, the more urban, the more likely it is to be Democratic.
Historically the South used to vote for the Democrats, but the Civil Rights legislation passed by Democratic presidents has led to many in the South feeling alienated and so switching to the Republican Party.