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Unveil the Political Phenomenon: Why People Bother to Vote

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Unveil the Political Phenomenon: Why People Bother to Vote

As one of the most democratic nations in the world, the United States has more than 210 million people who are eligible to vote. According to the data from Federal Election Commission, 54.87% of the voting age population had voted for the 2012 Presidential Election (1: 5). Voting issues have always been a phenomenon that people would like to examine for various explanations in the U.S. One of issues addresses the participation of voting: why people bother to vote. There are different reasons to explain why eligible people want to participate the politics, i.e. voting. Rosenstone and Hansen state that personal concerns of voting and cost and resource of voting contribute to the reasons of participation; however, social network and group consciousness can also provide explanations to the voting phenomenon. This paper focuses on the reasoning behind these distinct explanations and the critical tests to compare the strength and weakness of the rival explanations.

 Rosenstone and Hansen declare that by participating in politics, people will get something rewarding from it depending on their interests and beliefs. They demonstrate the rewards in different forms such as “material benefits”, “solidary benefits” and “purposive benefits” (403). People who have a direct interest or concern in political results, prefer one specific political result to another, and enjoy the internal satisfaction generating from the participation (404). For example, when Bernie Sanders proposed free tuition for all college students, there were more college students supporting him and voting him. The free tuition proposal is a tangible benefit for students if they voted for Bernie and he got selected to the president. By having such a thought in mind, eligible students will be more likely to participate into the voting process, as they want to realize their benefit. Sometimes the rewards can also be intangible. If people have a strong sense of citizen duty and believe it is their responsibility to make an effect on the political outcome, taking part in voting will provide them a feeling of satisfaction because they have performed something right and helpful to the society. Therefore, people who want to gain some rewards and benefits through voting have a higher tendency to engage in politics.

 Besides the rewards from voting, Rosenstone and Hansen also argue people with more resource have higher tendency to participate in political activity than those with less resource. The wealthy vote more than the poor because they have the financial resource to afford the political activities. They do not need to worry about daily chores as much as the poor since they can just simply hire someone to do for them (401). As a consequence, they will have more time and energy to do other activities and thus a higher chance to play a role in politics. Moreover, the more educated ones vote more than the less ones because education encourages and provides the skills that facilitate participation in politics (401). The history knowledge, understanding of the political system, and analytical skills that people attained through their education all have positive influence on taking part in politics since the opportunity cost of participating in voting is less compared to others. Their better ability to deal with politics due to education also motivates them to do so. They strongly believe that their efforts can make a difference. This confidence, or “a sense of political efficacy” (Rosenstone and Hansen 402), drives them to participate more than the others.

Another possible explanation for why people bother to vote is that social network will also influence people’s decision of voting. Individuals nowadays are surrounded by family, friends and colleagues. And people are very likely to share opinions with others. If people around them talk about the presidential election, they will pay more attention to various voting issues since people want to be accepted and liked by others. By knowing more knowledge of voting, individuals will have a higher tendency to vote in the future. Also if the some persons in the group have already voted, they would have the same expectations towards others in the same group. In the opposite direction, if individuals saw others voting, because of the group consciousness, they will have higher possibility to vote too. In today’s world, social network would have a strong effect on people’s political decisions since they can communicate not only through face-to-face conversations but also through different types of social media in the Internet.



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