Why Democrat candidates are more advantaged in the presidential and statewide elections and Republicans have as much advantage in the House of Representatives?
The scientific credibility of mixed methods is often questioned because of the partiality of voters. The investigation by the Pew Research Center (2012) has shown that in the last half decade, Americans tend to analyze the situation in the light of their party views.
The modern electorate of the Republican Party includes wealthy Americans, employees of large companies, mainly white, religious-minded, and conservative-oriented people. Republicans, unlike Democrats, support tax cuts, restriction of illegal migration limit, free trade market, and strengthening of the role of religion in the public life.
Residents of large US cities and densely populated coastal states mostly support Democrats (Pew Research Center, 2012). Among them, there are educated voters engaged in intellectual activity with an income above average, workers of large corporations and unions, feminists, human rights groups, and racial and sexual minorities. Nowadays, Democrats speak in support of raising taxes on the wealthy citizens, increasing of social benefits, the development of high-tech industries and the pollution abatement (Pew Research Center, 2012).
At present, after the 2012 election, the Democratic Party has the majority of seats. Nevertheless, it yields the number of governors and controlled legislature of states to the Republicans, which is the reason for their minority in the House of Representatives.
Another interesting fact discovered by the Pew Research Center (2012) is that members of the Republican Party with greater pleasure would vote for childless women candidates. On the contrary, the supporters of the Democratic Party do not pay much attention to the presence or absence of children, regarding the choice of a candidate. This experiment confirms the old truth: Republicans are more likely to support traditional values, believing that women hardly can perform political duties as their major activity. Meanwhile, Democrats are more liberal, and it helps them to gain national popularity (Pew Research Center, 2012).
In the last presidential election, both major presidential candidates – Barack Obama and John McCain – have spent considerable efforts in promoting in the so-called border states, i.e. states, where lives a roughly equal numbers of Republicans’ and Democrats’ supporters. The experience of recent decades shows that the electoral victory in these states brings the victory in the national elections. From this fact, it can be concluded that the common population of the USA is more likely to support the values of democracy, which is very demonstrative regarding the values of an ordinary American.
What is the relationship between “political sophistication” and the likelihood that one accepts facts contrary to his or her worldview? Why do you think such a relationship exists?
Political sophistication is a general kind of political behavior, which is the characteristic of the phenomenon of conformism (Lawrence, 2003). Political conformism may be observed in the likelihood that one accepts facts contrary to the worldview. A person demonstrates the passive acceptance of the existing order, the lack of one’s political position and principles, and “blind” following of any political actions prevailing in a given political system. In terms of political culture, it may be described by a strong focus on the inner relations in the political system and the results of its operations. Another feature of political conformism is a weak orientation of a politician to participate in the functioning of this system. The individuality, performing as a conformist in a certain political culture fully recognizes the authority of the government (Lawrence, 2003). Nevertheless, he does not seek to participate actively in political life and never wants to be opposed to it. Conformist consciousness and behavior were most intensely formed in the circumstances of the totalitarian and authoritarian political regimes. The main characteristics of such a behavior are to express consent and to look and sound like everyone else. It may lead to the loss of the feeling of a personality but acquiring the understanding of one’s conscience as a pliable material (Lawrence, 2003). This type of consciousness and personal culture is unfortunately very common in the sphere of politics. Many politicians easily move from one political party or one state agency to another with the hope of obtaining a significant position, etc. It is desirable to put an emphasis on the fact that political conformism destroys democracy in its root and must be realized as an indication of lack of political culture.
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What are the major forms of political participation, and what resources do they require?
Political participation is the impact of citizens on the functioning of a political system, the formation of political institutions, and policymaking. In the process of analyzing the impact of socio-economic modernization on the political participation, Huntington & Nelson (1976) distinguished following forms of political participation (political behaviors):
- Electoral activities (voting, donations to a campaign for election work, recruiting supporters on behalf of the candidate, etc.).
- Lobbying (individual or group efforts to get in touch with government officials and political leaders to influence their decisions on issues of importance to a large number of people).
- Organizational activities (participation through membership in an organization that seeks to have an influence on decision-making in the sphere of public administration).
- Contact-making (individual activity directed at public officials in order to obtain benefits for only one person or for a very small group of people).
- Violent actions (illegal efforts to influence decision makers, causing physical harm to a person or his property). Examples of political violence actions include political upheaval, assassination, riot, and insurrection.
In contrast to the violent actions, as noted Huntington & Nelson (1976), such forms of political participation as electoral activities, lobbying, organizational activities, and contact making can be both legal and illegal. After all, the bribery of voters, intimidation, and electoral fraud results until common citizens, not by professionals, perform them are belonging to political participation, as voting or visiting party meetings. Lobbying activities to which Huntington & Nelson (1976) include peaceful strikes, demonstrations, and pickets are legal in some countries and prohibited in others. Similarly, personal contact with the government may be either legal or illegal in its essence, depending on whether it is accompanied by bribery or some other illegal aspects.
Works of scientists in 1980 – 1990 years on the structure of political participation highlight the similarities and differences in the approaches towards political participation and behavior.
Thus, in the book Sex differences in the political participation (1987) Carol Christie declares five types (forms) of political participation. Three of them are generally consistent with the approach of S. Verba. These types are:
- Electoral activities (including both voting and participation in the political campaigns);
- Activities in the local community (participation in the affairs of the local community);
- Contact-making activity (contacting with the government officials concerning personal or political problems).
The two other types of political participation sound a bit more peculiar:
- Communication activities (tracking policies through the media and policy debate, including even a special form of discussion as purposeful persuasion for a certain candidate or party);
- Alternative political participation, which includes two groups of activities: a) less aggressive (petition campaigns, boycotts, legal demonstrations, and civil movements of the direct action, focused on the problems of consumers as well as the environment and local communities); b) more aggressive (illegal strikes, violent clashes, participation in revolutionary movements, and involvement in guerrilla or civil disobedience movements).
The concept of political participation is used to refer to various forms of non-professional political activity, featuring the real degree of citizen participation in the institutions of governance and decision-making processes. Political participation is opposed to such a form of behavior as political immobility (from Lat. “immobilis” — fixed) — passivity, complete detachment from political life. In many countries, including democratic states, electoral activity has been decreased in the recent years. Presidential elections in the US (2000) were held with 54% of voters’ activity and parliamentary elections in the United Kingdom (2001) — with 60% of voters’ activity (the lowest percent since 1918). One of the most significant referendums on constitutional issues that took place in autumn 2000 in France attracted the interest only of 25% of the population.
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Modern political systems, including democratic one, provide a combination of mobilization and autonomous forms of participation. It means that along with rational motives of political involvement that emerged from the realization of their interests, the individual political activity may be understood as an answer to party calls for mobilization and demagogical rhetoric of political leaders.
Absenteeism is an important indicator of public mood and confidence in the political system. It is the expression of political apathy and the lack of any interest in some kind of public protest, etc. In the latter case, it is a kind of demonstration of dissatisfaction with the policy of the official powers and of the doubt in the efficiency of institutions of elections.
Finally, electoral activity depends on voter registration practices. The complexity of the registration procedure in the United States, which, therefore, assumes that voters have to come to the polls beforehand and register themselves, is one of the reasons the level of visiting polling stations is so low, comparing to other countries, as recognized by American political scientists.
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Despite the importance of the elections, less sporadic forms of participation received too little attention in the aforementioned research. In particular, the outcome of the complaint to the mayor control concerning local air pollution is more likely to affect the lives of a specific city than the results of the general elections (Parry, Moyser, & Day, 1992). The authors of this research after examining the traditional forms of political participation claim that the emergence of non-traditional forms may occur in the context of the so-called “new populism”, the core of which is the idea of presence and participation (Parry et al., 1992). The scientists confirmed their words with the research data conducted in the countries of Western Democracy. Samuel Barnes and Max Kaas led the research, according to which common citizens are more and more inclined to the political participation beyond the traditional electoral arena. Another ground assertion according to which citizens of Western countries increasingly resort to “new forms of participation” is the spread of post–material values (Parry et al., 1992). Parry et al. (1992) drew particular attention to those new forms that spread from the 1960s in the local communities in large cities. The relationships between local authorities and citizens united in associations of local communities manifested themselves in different ways – from a relentless struggle to empower members of these organizations to provide certain governmental services.
Thus, forms of political participation, as well as their intensity and consequences exhibit primarily procedural and functional properties of the political system of a society, and the peculiarities of its political culture.