Are Voters Rational? Essay

1608 WordsMay 14, 20137 Pages
Are voters rational? Political scientists have long studied the question of voters and their behaviour. This essay will examine various theories of voting behaviour before contending that old sociological models may be becoming out-dated and that they are in the process of being replaced by newer models of rational voting behaviour. The sociological approach to understanding voting behaviour asserts that the voter is not rational and that various different factors will in fact dictate the way in which citizen will vote and essentially remove any element of choice. This model has two main concepts, socialization, the influences placed on a voter during his formative years, and immunization, the allegiance to a particular party or ideology being almost cemented in the voter. The process of socialization is a mechanism by which the voter acquires certain norms and values from his surroundings and becomes aligned to a certain political orientation. A voter’s socialization can be influenced by a host of different factors, religion, class, education to name a few, and if these influences are all similar in nature then it is believed that partisanship is almost a certainty (Evans, 2004, p. 46). The Columbia School studies of voting behaviour in the 1940’s showed the importance of ‘transmission’, the handing down of social and political values from parent to child, and ‘contact’, spending time with people who hold a similar set of beliefs and values, in this process (Bartels, 2008, p. 3). Immunization follows on from socialization, and comes in the form of a voter positively affirming their identification with a party. Butler and Stokes claim that once a voter has cast three votes for one party it is virtually impossible for them to vote for a different party. Age is, therefore, not a huge consideration when studying voting behaviour from this approach, as later

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