The Importance of Elections as a Linkage Institution and Voting

Linkage institutions can be defined as institutions that connect citizens with the government. Examples of linkage institutions include elections, political parties, interest groups, and the media. Elections specifically are supposed to encourage public participation in the selection of governmental officials. Unfortunately, low voter turnout has proved that elections are an imperfect linkage institution. Elections depend on voters to be successful, and some factors that relate to the likelihood of voting include age, education, and race.

Although some people underestimate the power of the vote, voter turnout is important to the future stability of the country. Without elections, the United States would not be the same powerful world power that it is today. To begin, age is one factor that is related to voter turnout. “Young adults are substantially less likely than middle-aged and older citizens to vote” (Patterson 2011, p. 187). Especially with local elections, which only has a small percentage of young adult voter turnout.

Fortunately, during the 2004 and 2008 presidential elections, voter turnout substantially increased from previous presidential elections. According to the United States Census Bureau, in the 2008 presidential election, 55 percent of eligible African American citizens between the ages of eighteen and twenty-four voted (African Americans, n. d. ). The Iraq war was another major factor that increased voter turnout among college-educated youth. Even though numbers increased for young adults, they were still lower than the voting rates of older adults.

One reason is because older voters do not have to reregister to vote since they normally live in the same household from one election to the next, compared to younger people who are more likely to move around. Another reason older people vote more is because they have children and own their homes, which increases their interest in election outcomes. Age clearly plays a factor in the extreme disparity between younger and older voters which can clearly be seen by the disparity between younger and older voter turnout. (Patterson 2011, p. 187) Education is another factor that can influence the likelihood of voting.

Both college-educated and upper-income Americans have above-average voting rates. “Americans with a college degree or high income are 50 percent more likely to vote in a presidential election than those who did not finish high school or have a low income” (Patterson 2011, p. 186). Also, middle-class voters mostly hold the balance of power in U. S. elections. Compared to middle class citizens, it is harder for people with less income and education to get to the voting polls. Many of these people usually do not own cars and homes and are therefore less likely to be registered before the election.

They are also less familiar with registration locations and requirements. The education of the individual plays a role in the willingness of the person to vote in elections. (Patterson 2011, p. 186) Besides age and education, a person’s race also influences their willingness to vote in elections. For example, the percentage of African American voters is low compared to Caucasian voters. According to the United States Census Bureau, only 12 percent of African Americans voted in the 2010 congressional election (African Americans, n. d. ).

Unfortunately, some African Americans still do not understand the struggles their ancestors endured so that future generations could have the right to vote. During the civil rights movement, African Americans fought for political, social, and economic equality. Even after the passing of the Fifteenth Amendment, African Americans were “disenfranchised in the South by intimidation and electoral trickery, including whites-only primaries, rigged literacy tests, and poll taxes” (Patterson 2011, p. 180). The Freedom Riders rode through the South, enduring harassment and imprisonment to encourage other African Americans to vote.

Voter turnout in African American communities is greatly encouraged. Personally, coming from an African American family, I was strongly encouraged by my parents and grandparents to vote when I was of legal age. My family instilled the importance of voting in me at a very young age. Although voter turnout among African Americans is still fairly low, in the 2008 presidential election African Americans had the second highest voter turnout, behind non-Hispanic Caucasians (African Americans, n. d. ).

Race can influence voter turnout because with African Americans specifically, although rates are getting better, they are still not high. One factor that decreases voter turnout is the misconception that a person’s vote does not matter. Alienation is a feeling of personal powerlessness that includes the feeling that the government does not care about individual people. These people believe that the government will not respond to their concerns even if they do vote. The problem is that a large portion of the population shares this attitude. People can have negative opinions of the government that discourage them from political participation.

Voter turnout is the proportion of people of voting age who vote in a given election. Voter registration is one factor that decreases voter turnout because although it makes voter fraud less likely, it still affects mostly impoverished people who are not aware of the registration process, or people who forget to register. Registration rules differ in different states and studies show that those states with fewer regulations have a higher voter turnout. “Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia do not permit prison inmates to vote” (Dulio 2009, p. 128).

Voter registration is important to the incorporation of a diverse opinion because the country should hear from people of all backgrounds. Registration needs to be effective while not excluding honest people. The voter “turnout in national elections has averaged more than 90 percent of Belgium and more than 80 percent in France, Germany, and Denmark” (Patterson 2011, p. 181). Unlike United States citizens, Europeans are more likely to join political organizations and protest. The European lower class is more politically involved and the citizens take full advantage of voting in elections.

It is vital that the United States citizens overcome voter registration obstacles so that the country can remain a world leader in the future. In conclusion, an election is one the most popular linkage institutions that is used to connect citizens to the government. Age, education, and race all play an important role in the likelihood of voting. Unfortunately, even though some people understand the importance of voting, others believe that voting is not important. Although voter registration is supposed to prevent voter fraud, some people argue that it could do more harm than good by deterring honest voters. Ultimately, elections are supposed to be a form of public participation, so it is essential for all people, no matter age, education level, and race to get involved and help ensure the stability of the country. (1,111 words)

Works Cited

  • "African American Demographics, Population, Incomes, Veterans, Education, Voting — Infoplease. com. " Infoplease. 18 Oct. 2012 .
  • Dulio, D. E. , O’Brien, E. E. , & Klemanski, J. S. (2009). Diversity in Contemporary American Politics and Government. New York, NY: Pearson
  • Patterson, T. E. (2011). The American Democracy. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.