The Psychology of Voting Behavior essay

It is necessary to point out the “cognitive model of the voter” which is an attempt to bring together different factors of the electoral behavior. These primarily include both the social context in which the elections took place, socio-cultural traditions of the society, especially political culture, and individual system of values ”‹”‹of the voters. (Houghton 2008) Under this approach, the factors that determine voting behavior are as follows:
– age and gender of voters, parents’ education, the influence of the traditions of the family;
– electoral preferences of parents in the young period of life of the voter;
– level of education, type of employment, the social status of the voter;
– current social changes and events in the political and economic sphere, the role of information sources used;
– the impact of a spouse, friends, membership in various social organizations;
– previous experience of voting;
– value orientation, place of politics in the interests of the individual;
– the vision of the past and future, expectations of the voters;
– party identification, opinion of the leaders of political parties, the views on specific policy issues. (Houghton 2008)

Electoral behavior of voters is characterized by impulsivity, unpredictability, vulnerability to the influence of random factors. The impact have both short-term and long-term factors.  Short-term factors are relevant to a specific elections, but there are some common:

1. One of the  main factor is the state of the economy at the time of elections, as there is a direct relationship between government popularity and economic indicators such as unemployment, inflation and income. A special role is played by the optimism of a person in relation to their material circumstances (so-called factor “everything is good”), that is why the Government usually is doing everything possible to spur the economy during the election period to improve their chances to stay for a second term.

2. Second short-term factor is the identity and public image of party leaders, which is especially important because the media always emphasize that the leader is a sort of “brand” of the party. Incidentally, this also means that if the party believes its electoral position is weak, and its leader is clearly unpopular, he should be replaced: that happened in 1990 with Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Bob Hawke in 1991 in Australia.

3. The third factor is how effectively the party carries out the campaign. Campaigns can last from three weeks (during the elections with a flexible term) and up to two years (at fixed dates, such as the U.S. presidential election). An important role is played by public opinion polls, the results of which can either enhance or weaken the position of the party, depending on how it affects the electorate. (Granberg 2010)

4. The last short-term factor is the role of the media, which, however, can have long-term value, for example, if the owners of the specific media will systematically cover the actions of a certain party or leader. From election to election, however, the press may behave differently, supporting or criticizing parties or candidates. Anyway mass media have one of the major impacts on the voters’ opinions and choice. The media certainly is a mean of manipulation. Of great importance is the specificity of social and political information: the greatest effect has information that matches the emotional attitudes of people (faith), and less important is information, addressed to the intellectual sphere of the individual.

All these factors are of great importance and should therefore be taken into account by policy makers when developing and conducting election campaigns.

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