Voter turnout is encouraged by the political parties to help their candidates win elections. The United States has an electoral college which chooses the President so does the voter turnout make a difference in the presidential election? The election for members of the House of Representatives and the Senate are based directly result of who has received the most votes. State and local elections for city council and mayor are the most directly affected by the voter turnout, especially in small towns and counties in the US. But the nagging question remains about whether voting for the President even matters. The answers to the questions: ‘Does voter turnout need to be increased?’ and ‘Why?’ are discussed here. The relationship between voter turnout for the primaries, the Electoral College, and the importance of the message versus advertising are discussed here.
The US is the most powerful nation in the world so elections are watched very closely around the world. The election system has many unique voting characteristics when compared to the rest of the world. The problem that receives the most discussion both inside and outside the country is the amount of money candidates spend on advertising and campaigning. The amount of money is huge so that raises the question: is it the money or the voter turnout that chooses presidents? The answer to the question is further complicated by the fact that in presidential elections the Electoral College votes for the president after the general election.
Wihbey from the Harvard’s Journalist Resource reports on research findings that show the money spent for campaign advertising may be more important than the message of the candidate in some cases. One example is from the Wesleyan Media Project “Obama’s ‘convention bounce’ may actually be an ad bounce.” Their research shows evidence that because the airwaves were full of ads paid for by the Obama campaign during the presidential conventions that could be the reason polls favored Obama during the period. The researchers found that between August 26 and September 8; 40,000 Obama ads were broadcast while on the other hand about 18,000 ads were aired for Romney during the same period. (Fowler as cited by Wihbey, journalistresource.org)
In the 2012 presidential election the popular voter President Obama received 50.6 percent of the vote and Republican presidential candidate won 47.8 percent of the vote. That is only a difference of 2.8 percent. The Electoral College voted 332 for Obama and 206 for Romney. (2012, realpolitic.com) Romney received the Electoral College votes from 23 states and Obama received from 27 states. (huffingtonpost.com) It is difficult to make any assumptions based on the Electoral College though because it is the number of electors in each state that makes a difference in the deciding vote. Also only two states, Maine and Nebraska, divide the public vote proportionally between the electors in the Electoral College. In those two states the electoral votes based on ‘proportional representation.’ In the rest of the states the winner of the popular vote wins all the electoral votes. The use of the Electoral College is highly controversial because a candidate can win the popular vote but still lose the election. This happened when George W. Bush won the election over Al Gore in 2000. (huffingtonpost.com)
The first step for a candidate is to win their party primary. Trende, the Senior Elections Analyst for RealClearPolitics.com wrote “Participation in presidential primaries is driven by close contests with multiple candidates vying for the vote.” (realclearpolitics.com) Next the candidates need to win the national vote. Erickson explains that from the total American population approximately two thirds are eligible to vote but only about 40 percent are registered to vote. Erickson estimated that “25 percent of the total American population will probably, actually go vote so a candidate needs 13 percent of the population to win.” (redstate.com) Erickson also explained that from the people who vote about 9 percent vote Democrat and about 8 percent vote straight Republican and the rest (about 8 percent) are undecided voters. (redstate.com)
First of all from a general perspective people need to vote because the vote is what gives people power in a democracy. Secondly the more that vote, the higher the number of undecided voters should turnout. From the information presented in this paper the conclusion is that people must vote. The use of the Electoral College needs to be debated; the amounts of money spent on campaigns are outrageous; and still the number one important factor in an election is whether or not people do turnout to vote.
Erickson, Erick. “A primer for rich donors who got taken to the cleaners by Republican consultants.” Red State, 2012 November 27. Web. 2012 November 30.
Fowler, Erika. “Obama’s ‘Convention Bounce’ may actually be an ad bounce.” Wesleyan Media Project as cited by Wihbey, John. “Seven big questions about the 2012 presidential election: Research roundup.” Journalist’s Resource, 2012 September 27. Web. 2012 November 30.
Trende, Sean, “How much does voter turnout matter?” Real Clear Politics, 2012 February 1. Web. 2012 November 30.
“What is the electoral college? How it works and why it matters.” Huffington Post, 2012 November 6. Web. 2012 November 30.