AP Government Chapter 10, pg. 310-320

Flashcard maker : Lily Taylor
Mandate Theory of Elections
A common explanation of how citizens vote—one favored by journalists and politicians—is that people vote because they agree more with the policy views of Candidate A than with those of Candidate B. Because citizens vote for the candidate whose policy promises they favor, many journalists and politicians say that the election winner has a mandate from the people to carry out the promised policies. (note: a mandate is an official order or commission to do something)
The mandate theory of elections is the idea that the winning candidate has a mandate from the people to carry out his or her platforms and politics. Politicians like the theory better than political scientists do.
Politicians are attracted to the mandate theory because it allows them to justify what they want to do by claiming public support for their policies.
However, political scientists know that people rarely vote a certain way for the same reason. Instead, political scientists focus on three major elements of voters’ decisions: 1.) voters’ party identification, 2.) voters’ evaluation of the candidates, and 3.) the match between voters’ policy positions and those of the candidates and parties—a factor termed “policy voting”.

Policy Voting
Policy voting is electoral choices that are made on the basis of the voters’ policy preferences and on the basis of where the candidates stand on policy issues. True policy voting can only take place when four conditions are met.
1.) Voters must have a clear view of their own policy positions.
2.) Voters must know where the candidates stand on policy issues.
3.) They must see differences between the candidates on these issues.
4.) They must actually cast a vote for the candidate whose policy positions coincide with their own.
One regular obstacle to policy voting is that candidates often decide that the best way to handle a controversial issue is to cloud their position in rhetoric.

Electoral College
The electoral college is a unique American institution, created by the Constitution, providing for the selection of the president by electors chosen by the state parties. Although the electoral college vote usually reflects a popular majority, the winner-take-all rule gives clout to big states.
The founders wanted the president to be selected by the nation’s elite, not directly by the people. They created the electoral college for this reason and left the decision as to how the electors are chosen to each state. Since 1828, though, political practice has been for electors to vote for the candidate who won their state’s popular vote. This is how the electoral college system works today:
1.) Each state, according to the Constitution, has as many electoral votes as it has U.S. senators and representatives. The state parties select slates of electors, positions they use as a reward for faithful service to the party.
2.) Aside from Maine and Nebraska, each state has a winner-take-all system. Electors vote as a bloc for the winner, whether the winner got 35 percent or 95 percent of the popular vote in their state.
3.) Electors meet in their states in December, following the November election, and then mail their votes to the vice president (who is also president of the Senate). The vote is counted when the new Congressional session is opened in January and is reported by the vice president.
4.) If no candidate receives an electoral college majority, then the election is thrown into the House of Representatives, which must choose choose from among the top three electoral vote winners. A significant aspect of the balloting in the House is that each state delegation has one vote, thus giving the one representative from Wyoming an equal say with the 53 representatives from California. Though the founders envisioned that the House would often have to vote to choose the president, this has not occurred since 1828.
The electoral college is important to the presidential election for two reasons. First, it introduces bias into the campaign and electoral process. Because each state gets two electors for its senators regardless of population, the less populated states are overrepresented. Second, the winner-take-all rule means that candidates will necessarily focus on winning the states where the polls show that there appears to be a close contest.

Retrospective Voting
A theory of voting in which voters essentially ask this simple question: “What have you done for me lately?”

Party Identification
Party identifications are crucial for many voters because they provide a regular perspective through which voters can view the political world.

Floating Voters
Voters who “choose the best candidate for office, regardless of party”. Essentially, they are up for grabs.

Voters’ Evaluation of Candidates
The three most important dimensions of candidate image are integrity, reliability, and competence.

Elections and Voting Behavior
Elections accomplish two tasks according to democratic theory. First, and most obviously, they select the policymakers. Second, elections are supposed to help shape public policy. It is more accurate to describe the connection between elections and public policy as a two-way street. Elections, to some degree, affect public policy, and public policy decisions partly affect electoral outcomes.
The greater the policy differences between the candidates, the more likely voters will be able to steer governmental policies by their choices.
If elections affect policies, then policies also affect elections. Most policies have consequences for the well-being of certain groups or the society as a whole. Those who feel better off as a result of certain policies are likely to support candidates who pledge to continue those policies, whereas those who feel worse off are inclined to support opposition candidates.

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