If you want to understand why people vote, you need to look at the potential makeup of the American electorate.
When the census is conducted, demographic patterns are determined.
Certain things become obvious when the demographic study is evaluated.
The nation's population increase has been a result of immigrants.
There have been three distinct immigrant trends affecting population patterns.
The first wave of immigrants came from northwestern Europe and included English, Irish, and Germans.
After the Civil War, the second period was the greatest influx of immigrants.
Italians, Jews, Asians, Poles, and Russians came to this country looking for the American Dream.
America was described as a melting pot due to a mix of immigrants whose cultures and ideas had an influence on the culture of this country.
Immigrants became part of the country's mainstream.
The immigration quota laws of the 1920s and 1930s stopped the flow.
The new immigrant period began after World War II and peaked in the 1980s when immigrants came from Central and Latin America and Asia.
After the passage of the Simpson-Marzzoli Act, illegal aliens who were living in this country since 1982 were allowed to apply for legal status.
The most recent immigration act was passed in 1991.
The act shifted the quota of immigrants to Europe in order to attract immigrants who were trained workers.
California voters passed a law in 1994 that denied social services to illegal aliens.
The law was declared unconstitutional by a federal court.
The Welfare Reform Act of 1996 denied welfare benefits to legal immigrants, as well as an immigration bill that would build a 700-mile fence along our southern border to keep illegal immigrants out of the country.
An increase in the aging America, a population shift to the sunbelt, and a decrease in those who would be classified as earning an income close to or below the poverty level are some of the key aspects of the 2010 census.
The population of the United States shifted from big industrial states to the sunbelt states of the south and southwest as a result of the 2010 census results.
The official count of the U.S. population is 308,745,538.
In 2000 the population was over one million.
The growth rate is the lowest since the Great Depression.
The states that will lose congressional seats are Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
New York and Ohio will lose seats.
President Obama will lose electoral votes in 2012 as a result.
He won all of those states in 2008.
The districts in those states will have to be redrawn.
The states gaining seats are Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, South Carolina, Texas, Utah, and Washington.
Four seats will be gained by Texas.
Florida will get two seats.
Public policy consequences of immigrant patterns and factors are important to the political process.
The factor that determines voting behavior is political socialization.
People are more likely to vote if they know how to develop their political orientation.
The family, the media, and public schools determine these attitudes.
Party identification, the voter's evaluation of the candidates, and policy voting are some of the factors that come into play in evaluating the voting process.
They can be classified into two categories.
People in the lower income brackets tend to vote Democratic.
The upper-middle to upper-income level voters tend to vote Republican.
When you compare the voting rates of both groups, you will see that citizens with higher incomes and greater education vote in greater numbers than those with lower incomes and less education.
This is the most important factor in determining voter turnout.
The pattern held true in the presidential elections.
Voting patterns don't usually correlate with gender.
There is a gender gap in national politics, with men and women voting in different ways.
Even if a woman ran for national office, she wouldn't get the women's vote.
More women voted for the Reagan-Bush ticket in 1984 because there was a woman running for vice president.
Women vote for Democratic candidates in greater percentages than men do.
In the 1994 midterm election, polls showed that "angry white" voters supported Republican candidates more than women did.
In 1996, when the male vote was split almost evenly between Clinton and Dole, women voted for Clinton by more than 10 percent.
The soccer mom is a new term that shows why certain women voters favored Clinton so much.
This trend continued in 2000.
John Kerry wanted to get the gun owners' vote.
There was a new gender gap described in 2004, it was between single and married women.
In the election of 2008, Barack Obama attracted more women to the Democratic ticket, resulting in more women voting for him.
The youth vote is changing.
Political parties have been trying to get the young voter since the Twenty-sixth Amendment was passed.
Even though they seem to vote more Democratic than Republican, the fact remains that they have voted in lower numbers than other groups.
From 1976 to 1988, the turnout among the youngest voters was less than 40 percent.
MTV ran a "Choose or Lose" campaign in 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008 to increase voter turnout.
Catholics and Jews tend to vote Democratic, whereas northern Protestants tend to vote Republican, dating back to the early days of immigration.
People who don't identify themselves as being closely connected to a religion are more likely to vote in general elections.
White voters turn out more for Democratic candidates than for minority groups.
Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition are trying to increase minority voter turnout.
Political parties are interested in minority groups.
There was a religious gap after the 2000 election.
People who were regular churchgoers tended to vote Republican, while people who did not attend religious services tended to vote Democratic.
In 2004, polls showed an increase of three million evangelical voters who voted for George W. Bush.
The voter preference has been dictated by geography.
After the Civil War, the South voted Democratic.
The South has become more conservative.
Sometimes it's hard to tell the difference between the two because of ideology, but they vote Republican more on the national level and Democratic in local elections.
Northerners vote in greater numbers than Southerners.
A large number of minority voters are not registered.
New England and sunbelt voters tend to vote Republican, whereas the big industrial states lean to the Democrats in close presidential elections.
Even though party identification is important in determining voter choice and voter turnout, more and more people are choosing to register as Independent.
Voters tend to respond more to the individual candidate and issues, along with the sociological factors, than just party identification alone.
The Democrats would have the edge if we assumed party identification was a key factor in determining voter turnout and voter preference.
The Republicans gained control of the House and the Senate in 1994, after the Democrats had dominated both houses from World War II.
In determining the outcome of a presidential election, personality and issues are more important than party.
In many elections, ticket-splitting happened more than straight party line voting.
In 1996, the voters kept the Democratic president and the Republican Congress in office.
Voting patterns peaked in the 1960s during the presidential elections.
You need to be registered in order to vote.
This was an important factor in explaining why voter turnout was low.
The Rainbow Coalition increased minority voter registration.
The Motor Voter Act of 1993 was signed into law by President Clinton.
The law allowed people to register to vote.
Since the Voting Rights Act of 1965, so many new voters have registered.
More than 600,000 people were eligible to vote.
The Republicans made significant gains even though they were concerned that there would be a Democratic imbalance in the new registrants.
Most of the new voters did not vote.
The constitutionality of the law was challenged by California and four other states.
The federal courts did not agree with that contention.
Even though it is easier for people to vote, there has been a downward trend since 1968.
Since 1932, the number of people voting has doubled.
The percentage of eligible voters who voted declined after reaching a high in 1960.
When close to 55 percent of the registered voters turned out, there was a significant increase in the 1992 election.
The voter turnout was below 50 percent in 1996 because of negative voter reaction to the campaign issues raised by President Clinton and Senator Dole.
The percentage went up to over 50 percent in 2000.
There was a record voter turnout in 2004.
There was an increase in voter turnout in the 2008 presidential election.
More than half of eligible voters turned out.
The three elections that took place in the 1960s had the highest presidential turnouts.
National and international events, as well as new legislation that increased voting opportunities for minorities, were probably responsible for the higher numbers.
The percentage of voters dropped after Watergate.
In off-year congressional elections voter turnout is lower.
In the last 40 years, turnout in congressional elections has averaged around 40 percent.
There is a discrepancy between voter participation and the amount of election coverage provided.
Increased use of the mass media and presidential debates should increase voter turnout.
Many eligible voters prefer not to vote because of a decline in party identification and distrust of politicians.
The legal right to vote has changed a lot in the country.
The Constitution only gave franchise to white male property owners.
There are close to 200 million people who are at least 18 years old who can vote.
It has taken a long time for individuals who were held back by such considerations as race, religious background, literacy, ability to pay poll taxes, and property ownership to be given the right to vote.
Increased opportunities to vote are reflected in the history of suffragists.
The voting requirements for religious qualifications were eliminated by the 1800s.
Property considerations were legislated out of existence by most states in the 19th century.
After the Civil War, there was an attempt to franchise the freed race.
The passage of the Fifteenth Amendment was countered by the passage of literacy laws and poll taxes in most Southern states.
The early twentieth century saw the passage of two key amendments, the direct election of senators and the granting of voting rights to women.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965, which eliminated the poll tax, was supported by the passage of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment.
Washington, D.C., voters, as a result of the Twenty-Third Amendment in 1961, and the 18-year-old as a result of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment in 1971, were the final groups to receive the vote.
Even though there was an increase in the potential pool of voters, it was left up to the individual states to regulate specific voting requirements.
Residency, registration procedures, age, and voting times affect the ability of people to vote.
Federal law and Supreme Court decisions have created more consistency in these areas.
The Supreme Court stopped the recount in Bush v Gore after intervening in the Florida recount.
The Supreme Court ruled that there is enough time for residency.
The centralization of voter registration is provided by the Motor Voter Act.
Some states allow 17-year-olds to vote.
The Voting Rights Act Amendments of 1970 and the Supreme Court decisions have made literacy tests illegal in every state.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, both increased voting opportunities.
The Civil Rights Act allowed the federal government to enforce the law if it resulted in discrimination.
The Fifteenth Amendment was made a reality thanks to the Voting Rights Act.
In 1970, 1975, and 1982 it was reinforced by other amendments.
The poll tax and literacy requirements were addressed as a result of this act.
The attorney general had the power to determine which states were in violation of the law after the Supreme Court ruled on the legality of the law.
The act made it illegal for states to pass their own restrictive voting laws.
There can be restrictions on a person's right to vote.
People in mental institutions, the homeless, convicted felons, and dishonorably discharged soldiers are not allowed to vote in some states.
Public opinion is formed at a very young age.
Individuals hold opinions about politics and government.
Political scientists think this process is political socialization.
There are parallels between the factors that influence voting patterns and the factors that mold public opinion.
People act on their viewpoints as they grow older.
"Family values" has become an overused phrase but, in fact, is the primary source of political opinions.
When Vice President Dan Quayle made family values an election issue in 1992, there was a debate.
Children internalize what they hear and see in their family unit.
A child with a single parent will have strong attitudes about child support.
Most children will register and vote for the same party as their parents if parents talk about party identification.
The formation of political views can be influenced by schools and the church.
The family unit supports the viewpoint.
The meaning of citizenship is instilled in schools and teachers at an early age.
Children sing the national anthem.
Students will learn how to question the role of government if the educational system is open.
People who are in the public spotlight--whether they are politicians, union officials, successful businessmen and women, spiritual leaders, or your personal doctors, lawyers, or accountants--play an impressive role in shaping public opinion.
People respond to Donald Trump or Lee Iacocca when they talk about government.
People who hold important offices use different techniques to influence the public.
The formation of people's political attitudes is being formed by the mass media.
TV talk shows, interactive technology, and the print media comment on every aspect of our lives.
The average household watches more than seven hours of television a day.
Policymakers truly understand opinion trends to translate public opinion into policy.
This is a difficult part of policymakers.
They rely on polls, letters, and personal input.
The next section will talk about polling techniques.
America's pulse is taken by public opinion polls.
They can be used to predict the outcome of elections.
Poll-taking has become more important in recent years.
Pollsters want to know what the American public thinks.
The results are reported in the media in a number of cases.
The extent to which the public has a consensus on an issue.
Gallup, CNN, and daily newspapers have mastered the art of measuring public opinion using scientific methodology and computer technology.
CNN and other media outlets took daily polls of both likely and eligible voters during the recent presidential campaigns.
The results were different.
The proliferation of daily tracking polls was caused by the increased popularity of the Internet.
One can find as many as a dozen polls broken down nationally and by state, by registered voter, by likely voters, by popular vote, and over a three-day period.
There was conflicting data.
Some websites were able to accurately predict the popular vote and electoral vote margins for Barack Obama.
Public opinion polls have become so sophisticated that they can accurately predict the outcome of an election minutes after the polls close.
The polls can give valuable information on why people voted the way they did.
There is a serious question regarding the prediction of elections using exit polls.
There are attempts to restrict the use of exit polls.
There have been polling mistakes in the past.
The most famous polling error was in 1936 when a magazine mailed out straw ballots to more than 10 million people.
It got back more than 2 million of them and predicted that the incumbent would be defeated.
Roosevelt won the election by a wide margin, carrying every state except Maine and Vermont.
The poll didn't have a valid sample, getting its population from automobile registration lists and telephone numbers.
During a depression, that kind of sample would favor the Republicans.
There was a polling disaster in the 1948 election.
The election was extremely close.
Gallup predicted a Dewey victory in September.
Pollsters were told they would have to continue polling until the last day of the campaign to gauge public opinion accurately.
Most polls have accurately predicted voter trends and have been responsible in how they have been reported.
The 2000 presidential election polling organizations came under fire.
The Voter News Service, a conglomerate of major media organizations pooling their resources to provide exit poll information, gave inaccurate statistics to the networks regarding the results of the Florida vote.
The networks decided to call the election for Gore.
The state remained in the "too close to call" column until George W. Bush was given the state in the early hours of the next morning.
Gore called Bush and conceded the election when it became clear that the real results were so close that a recount of Florida's votes was required.
The networks implemented new procedures for the 2004 election after Voter News Service took responsibility for the poor methodology used.
There are far-reaching consequences of the information superhighway.