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U.S. Presidential Elections in Perspective | Stratfor


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The remaining 16 elections ended with the winner receiving between 50-55 percent of the vote, in many cases barely above the 50 percent mark -- meaning almost half the country voted for someone else. The United States not only always has had deeply divided elections, but in many cases, minority presidents. Interestingly, of the four presidents who won more than 60 percent of the vote, three are not remembered favorably: Harding, Johnson and Nixon. 

Three observations follow. First, for almost 200 years the electoral process has consistently produced a division in the country never greater than 60-40 and heavily tending toward a much narrower margin. Second, when third parties had a significant impact on the election, winners won five times with 45 percent of the vote or less. Third, in 26 of the U.S. presidential elections, the winner received less than 52 percent of the vote.

Even in the most one-sided elections, nearly 40 percent of voters voted against the winner. The most popular presidents still had 40 percent of votes cast against them. All other elections took place with more than 40 percent opposition. The consistency here is striking. Even in the most extreme cases of national crisis and a weak opponent, it was impossible to rise above just over 60 percent. The built-in opposition of 40 percent, regardless of circumstances or party, has therefore persisted for almost two centuries. But except in the case of the 1860 election, the deep division did not lead to a threat to the regime. On the contrary, the regime has flourished -- again 1860 excepted -- in spite of these persistent divisions.

The Founding Fathers' constitutional system leaves the president remarkably weak. In light of this, while politically attentive people might care who is elected, the politically indifferent might have a much shrewder evaluation of the nature of the presidency.

To me, that so many people don't vote does not indicate widespread alienation as much as indifference: The outcome of the election is simply less important to many than picking up the kids from piano lessons.

I think this is key here. The rest of the (at least developed) world has much higher voter participation, in large part, due to the large degree which politicians and their diktats interfere directly with ordinary peoples' lives. State involvement in industry, in health & welfare, in lifestyle issues, all require people to be involved politically by dint of direct self interest.

Political indifference is the ultimate hallmark of freedom. When your political involvement does not have a direct bearing on your life and your family, you have every right to disregard it... to be free of it!

how much would having a day off for the election improve turnout?

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