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This Just In ...

Kevin Fischer is a veteran broadcaster, the recipient of over 150 major journalism awards from the Milwaukee Press Club, the Wisconsin Associated Press, the Northwest Broadcast News Association, the Wisconsin Bar Association, and others. He has been seen and heard on Milwaukee TV and radio stations for over three decades. A longtime aide to state Senate Republicans in the Wisconsin Legislature, Kevin can be seen offering his views on the news on the public affairs program, "InterCHANGE," on Milwaukee Public Television Channel 10, and heard filling in on Newstalk 1130 WISN. He lives with his wife, Jennifer, and their lovely young daughter, Kyla Audrey, in Franklin.

Why we vote the way we do




 

According to a new Gallup survey, the number of Americans claiming they’re Independents has surged at the expense of Republicans. Both parties have seen declines in identification signaling a general dissatisfaction with politics and politicians.

Should either party be worried about the results? Has the power of the independent vote increased?

Regarding the latter, since 1948, researchers from the University of Michigan’s Institute for Social Research have worked to understand why people vote the way they do and have found voting habits have changed very little over the years.

Susan Rosegrant is a lecturer at the U-M Residential College and a contributing editor at the U-M Institute for Social Research. Rosegrant writes about The American Voter, by researchers and survey designers Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes, a 1960 book with assertions that have steered our thoughts of voting behavior ever since.

“…factors influencing voter behavior could be pictured as feeding into a funnel—what the authors called
the funnel of causality—with the actual vote being the outcome of all the factors. Inside the mouth of the funnel were factors long considered important: socio-demographic characteristics—such as age, gender, and income level—and party identification. But, the authors argued, to judge their impact on the eventual vote, those factors first had to travel down the narrowing funnel and be filtered through a set of ‘partisan attitudes,’ that is, attitudes toward issues, social group interests, the parties’ performance as managers of government, and the nominees themselves. Only after this ‘political translation’ process could the impact of the socio-demographic and party identification factors be determined.

“This more nuanced analysis of voter behavior produced some unexpected conclusions. For example, the authors asserted that Independents were not the thoughtful and informed voters most observers had assumed them to be, but instead were less interested and engaged than partisans.

“The authors also concluded that the average voter was surprisingly unsophisticated: Most citizens didn’t make their voting decisions based on policy questions, nor did they hold consistently liberal or conservative views across issues. The assessment proved contentious in some quarters, and led to political scientist V.O. Key’s famous response that ‘voters are not fools.’ But do the funnel of causality and other concepts of a book published in 1960 still apply to today’s voters? According to William Jacoby—director of the ICPSR Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research based at ISR, and Michigan State University political science professor—the answer is a resounding yes.”

Here is Rosengrat’s entire piece, “Why we vote the way we do.”

 

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