“The voter turnout for 2008 election was broadly predicted to be high by American standards. The final total votes counted ware 131.3 million, compared to 122.3 million in 2004 (which also was the highest record since 1968, when the voting age was lowered to 18). It could reflect a turnout as high as 63.0% of eligible voters, which would be the highest since 1960.”
According to “The Road to the White House”, turnout is influenced by partisan, economic, and social factors. It is also affected by laws that govern elections and by circumstances of the vote itself, such as interest in the election, the closeness of the contest, the effectiveness of the campaign, and even the weather on Election Day. The impact of these variables on the decision of whether to cast a ballot at all is the principal focus of this section. There are also psychological, social, and political influences on who comes out to vote. Interest in the election, concern over the outcome, feelings of civic responsibility, and sense of political efficacy are factors that influence voting.
With the Obama’s health care issues and based on the turn out of 2008, I expect the turnout in the 2012 presidential election will be greater. First, “the 2008 election saw increased participation from African-Americans. African Americans made up 11.1% of the electorate in 2004, versus 13.0% in 2008. According to exit polls, over 95% of African Americans voted for Barack Obama. This played a critical role in southern states such as North Carolina. 74% of North Carolina’s registered African American voters turned out, as opposed to 69% of North Carolinians in general, with Obama carrying 100% (with rounding) of African American females and African Americans age 18 to 29, according to exit polling.” The more people have done it in the past, the more likely they will do it in the future. So I think those who vote in the 2008 would still vote in 2012. Second, Obama Care. No matter supreme court would pass the individual mandatory care or not, there is no doubt that Obama’s health care plan get a lot of attention, including both approval and opposition. If the Supreme Court passes the bill, I believe those who oppose to it would vote for the Republican candidates. Third, the economy is in recovery. But the oil price is going up. If the economy growth slow down in the following month, I believe the turn out would increase.
If I were a campaign adviser to President Obama, I would recommend him to increase turnout in favor of him in three ways. According to the “The Road to the White House”, there are several models regarding why people vote as they do. The first model is based assumes that individuals are influenced by their partisan attitudes and social relationships in addition to the political environment in which an election occurs. Of all the factors that contribute to the development of a political attitude, identification with a political party is the most important. As elections have become more candidate centered, so too is partisanship more influenced by the image of the party’s nominee. It is a two-way relationship. Party helps shape the image of the candidate, and candidates affect the image of the party. Moreover, the impact of candidates on partisan images can extend beyond the election itself. So President Obama should fully take advantage of the Democratic Party before the Republican Nomination Convention. He should get endorsement from the Democratic Party as many as possible to gain the party support, and then to gain the support of the Democratic voter.
Another model found those who switched their votes to be interested in and influenced by their own evaluation of policy, personality, and performance. They take into account their present situation, their beliefs about government, and their assessments of how the country is doing under its current leadership and will do in the future. For an incumbent president seeking reelection, accomplishments in office provide much of the criteria for evaluating how well the president has done. Other characteristics, such as trustworthiness, integrity, empathy and candor, are also important. To the extent that issue positions are not known or distinguishable between the principal candidates, their respective personal images become a stronger influence on the vote.
So Obama campaign should focus on the achievement of President Obama, such as the death of Bin Laden, the Nobel Peace Prize and the end of Iraq War. We also need to convince voters that the Health Care Reform is in the right path and the economy is recovering.
Third, young people tend to vote less. As people age, they become more regular voters. The reasons young people vote less are: they are more mobile and have fewer economic interests and looser political ties to the community in which they live, they have not yet developed the habit of voting, even of identifying with a political party. Obama had a lot of young voters back in 2008, and we should keep this good trend and encourage the young to vote in 2012. Moreover, Catholics, Jewish, African Americans, Hispanics, the middle class and female tend to identify with Democrats. So we should target these groups and our main issues should center this group.
Overall, lower turnout has hurt the Democrats more than the Republicans, because a larger proportion of the Democratic Party identifiers are less likely to vote. So traditionally, the organizations at the state and local level could provide out the vote drives. We should also field volunteers to make personal contacts with potential Democratic voters such as making phone calls before the election.
According to the book, there are two basic models of voting behavior: retrospective and prospective evaluations. According to the retrospective evaluation, voting decisions are calculations people make on the basis of their accumulated political experience. The make these calculations by assessing the past performance of the parties and their elected officials in light of the promises they made and political events that have occurred. The prospective emphasizes the issues and looks to the future, voters compare their beliefs and policy preferences with those of the parties and their nominees, position that are closer to their own, and would more likely pursue those positions if elected. Partisan ties have also become weaker, which in turn has produced more candidate-oriented voting and to a lesser extent, more issue-oriented voting, especially at the presidential level. Patterns among demographic groups, issue stands, and electoral perceptions and choices are noted and used to explain why people voted for particular candidates. When campaigning, candidates also try to create an aura of leadership, conveying such attributes as assertiveness, decisiveness, compassion, and integrity. Theses promises created performance expectations. Candidates encourage voters to see what they want to see and believe what they want to. Disillusionment naturally sets in once a new president begins to make decisions. Some supporters feel deceived, while others may be satisfied.
So I think the broad themes would be economy, health care and Obama’s achievements.
First, the economy, I think, will be the central issue of the campaign. As we move into 2012, the economy is still in bad shape, but it is better now than it was when Obama took office.
The recession reached its depth during President George W. Bush’s final quarter in office. However, Americans’ current views of the U.S. economy also suggest some difficulty ahead for Obama. According to Gallup, for the week ending Feb. 5, 56% of Americans say the U.S. economy is getting worse, while 38% say it is getting better. Gallup’s broader Economic Confidence Index is at -25 for the week ending Feb. 5, still in negative territory, but up slightly from -27 for the month of January, and up significantly from the overall average of -37 for 2011. Evidence from scholars who analyze the relationship between the economy and a president’s re-election chances suggests that change in the economy is most important. Thus, the direction of the Economic Confidence Index in the months ahead will be a telling indicator of Obama’s re-election probabilities. So the unemployment rate, the price of gas, the stock market, and the gross domestic product matter. “Gallup’s February update of the Most Important Problem facing the country finds 71% of Americans mentioning some aspect of the economy. This high level of top-of-mind concern about the economy was also evident in 1991 and 1992, when George H.W. Bush lost his re-election bid. Similarly, in October 1980, just before Carter lost to Reagan, Americans also overwhelmingly named economic concerns — mainly inflation and the cost of living — as the most important problems facing the nation. And, in October 1976, just before Ford lost to Carter, Americans overwhelmingly named inflation and unemployment/jobs as the nation’s most important problems.”
Second, health care. Obama’s healthcare overhaul, signed into law two years ago, is his signature domestic policy achievement. It remains a divisive issue among Americans and is likely to be a key issue ahead of the November 6 election in which he seeks a second term. The decision will land in the middle of the 2012 presidential campaign. According to Gallup, it is even no matter the bill is passed or not. But according to LA times, “Republicans will celebrate if the court strikes down the requirement that individuals buy insurance — the least-liked part of Obama’s signature legislative achievement. A Supreme Court ruling in their favor would validate GOP charges that Obama’s plan is an unconstitutional overreach by the federal government.” Right now, it already becomes a key in the election, so I think with the proceeds of health care reform, it could become the key factor that will influence the election.
Third, Obama’s achievement. Obama delivered a lot of promises in the 2008 campaign, but not much of them are achieved. According to the book, the voters should be disappointed, but according to Gallup data, Obama and Romney enjoy same popularity. I expect that after the Republican nomination, Republican nominee would use it to attack Obama.