Voting And Non-Voting Behaviors In 2004 US Presidential Election

Voting And Non-Voting Behaviors In 2004 US Presidential Election

The USA presidential election is conducted every 4 years in November. It uses a system of “first-past-the-post” or “winner-takes-all” which means the candidate who gets the majority of popular votes does not necessarily win; what is more important is getting the majority of electoral votes. In such a system an individual might feel that his vote can not make a difference in the outcome of the election and therefore may choose not to vote at all. That is why some scholars believe about 50 per cent of people who are eligible to vote prefer to stay at home and not to show up in the Election Day.

In this paper, the theories of voting and non-voting behavior in 2004 presidential election are discussed. In other words, we are going to see whether party identification model or issue voting played an important role in individuals’ opinions who voted and if they did not vote, what was the reason behind that?

The United States presidential election of 2004 was between the Republican candidate, George Walker Bush, the President of the United States and the defeated Democratic candidate, John Kerry, the junior United States Senator from Massachusetts.

Bush received about 51 percent of the votes cast (62 million votes), while Kerry received about 48 percent (59 million votes). Bush could get 286 electoral votes and Kerry 251. The counting of the votes in the state of Ohio was controversial and many believed that if voting in Ohio had proceeded fairly, Kerry would have become the US president.

There was only a slight difference between the states which voted for Democrats and the ones which voted for Republicans in comparison to the 2000 presidential election. The difference is to do with only three states. Bush took Iowa and New Mexico (combined 12 electoral votes), both won by Al Gore in 2000, while Kerry took New Hampshire (4 electoral votes), which Bush had previously won. Bush got a net gain of 8 electoral votes from these switches.

This result is to do with party identification model. That is to say the Southern states generally voted for George W Bush, while the Northern states supported the Democratic candidate, John Kerry. But this is just a mere generalization if one says that in the 2004 presidential election, party identification model was the most important factor. Nevertheless, its importance is not questionable.

The most important factor in voting theories of the 2004 was about issue voting. In other words, voters paid a lot of attention to the issues that were supported by candidates. Above all people’s concern was the issue of national security including terrorism and moral values which was advocated by Bush. On the other hand, Kerry’s slogan was “stronger at home, respected in the world.” And he also paid more attention to economic issues like jobs and health care. One should bear in mind that the 2004 election was the first presidential election after Sep. 11, 2001 and very logically if one felt threatened, the best candidate to vote for would be a Republican. And very basically that was the reason why individuals voted for George W Bush.

The percentage of voting-age citizens taking part in the 2004 presidential election was higher than the previous one in 2000. 64 percent of voter turnout (126 million) in the 2004 election was a record number for a presidential election. Among 72.1 percent of the people registered, 63.8 voted, that is to say 16 million registered voters did not cast a ballot. Well, there were different reasons why these registered nonvoters did not show up: 20 percent said that they were too busy on the Election Day, 15 percent said that they were ill or had a family emergency, and 11 percent said that they felt their votes would not make a difference in the outcome. Other reasons included being out of town, not liking the candidates, confusing about voting or registration, etc.

All in all, the element which was of great importance in the 2004 presidential election was about issue voting and the issue which most people were concerned about was national security. People chose their future president retrospectively, as the Republican Party is known for being a better leader when it comes to foreign policy and therefore national security.

1. McKay D., Houghton D. & Wroe A. (2005) Controversies in American Politics and Society, United Kingdom, Blackwell Publishing



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