Why do some people always vote for the same party?

A viewer asked this question on 8/16/2000:

I've asked you a question concerning the difference between the Republican & Democratic party. Now I have something to get off my doubts. Why do a large amount of people always vote for a particular party and not the other?

JesseGordon gave this response on 8/16/2000:

In the olden days, people registered with a party and always voted that way. "The olden day" means before the 1960s, when Watergate disillusioned people with government in general. People who came of voting age before the 1960s often simply registered as party members and then voted for whatever slate that party offered. That went along with "smoke-filled rooms" at nominating conventions, and "machine politics" where ward bosses "delivered" voters on demand to the party powers-that-be.

It was certainly simpler for the voters than actually considering candidates. And many older voters today still believe in the party system and automatically vote for their party, because that's the way they've always done it.

There are actually more voters these days who call themselves "independent" than who call themselves either "Democrats" or "Republicans." The independent group is who the main party candidate vie for these days, since they are the "swing voters" who decide the election (since the number of registered Dems and Reps is about equal).

Of course, some younger voters also vote straight party-line tickets, as do many voters of any age who have a particular ideological agenda. If you are a strong liberal, you're always going to vote for the Democrat, because regardless of details, the candidate will be closer to your views than the Republican candidate. The same holds if you're a strong conservative -- the Republican, no matter what, will be closer to your views than the Democrat. Hence, given a choice between a candidate who disagrees with you a little, and a candidate who disagrees with you a lot, you pick the party line.

Furthermore, even if you don't like the particular candidate for the House or Senate, say, you might vote for your preferred party to give them an advantage in Congress.

Both Bush & Gore have moved to the center from their traditional party lines. They've done so because they want the centrist votes. Clinton was successful in doing exactly that in 1992 and 1996, and they're following his model (as has Lieberman; less so for Cheney).

The alternative in this election is Nader and Buchanan. People who might otherwise always vote for Democrats on leftist ideological grounds, this year will consider whether they will settle for Gore or will vote for a serious liberal. The same applies to the religious right, who can settle for Bush or vote for an unrepentant conservative in Buchanan.

stevehaddock gave this response on 8/16/2000:

Because hope springs eternal.

In actuality, most Democratic voters have much more liberal economic beliefs than have recent Democratic presidents. Just look at the people in the Senate and Congress pushing for higher taxes and more government spending. For example, Teddy Kennedy, despite his personal problems, is always a shoo-in to be re-elected in his native Massachusetts. He's not alone either.

If you look at people who run for the nomination, you generally find at least one major Democrat whose policies are much more liberal than his opponent (this year, it was Bill Bradley whose liberal credentials are unquestioned). However, Democrats like to win and they are afraid that if they put forward someone "too liberal" that they will lose votes in the south (which is more conservative by nature) and the west (which is largely Republican).

However, this fear is largely unwarranted. As Harry Truman said "give the people a choice between a Republican and a Republican and they will vote for the Republican every time". He meant that Democrats usually chose someone like the Republican candidate and the Republicans generally chose, well, a Republican. Truman's own example showed that a person could get elected by following his own principals and beliefs - he won a squeaker in 1948.

Mind you, the Republicans aren't all bad. Eisenhower almost didn't get nominated by his party because he was seen as "too liberal" by his detractors. In fact, he was more liberal than other Republicans and, as history has shown, a lot more popular too.

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