This is Kenneth Janda to talk about Chapter 7, "Participation and Voting." This chapter discusses both conventional and unconventional means of political participation. It explains the major differences between these two means of participation, although the distinction is admittedly not always clear. After reading Chapter 7, you should be able to describe how "conventional" and "unconventional" participation differ, and tell whether unconventional behavior ever achieves its political goals.
Americans are often characterized as politically apathetic--as lacking in willingness to engage in conventional participation. This chapter argues quite the opposite: Americans are among the most politically active citizens in the world in almost all forms of conventional behavior--except one. Be sure you know what that exception is.
Although voting is only one form of political participation, voting is critical to democratic government. The chapter accounts for the extension of voting rights in the U.S. across time for white males, for black males, and for women. You should understand the basic points in that voting history.
When people think of voting, they usually think of voting for candidates, but citizens also vote for policies. Learn how two governmental mechanisms--the "referendum" and the "initiative"--figure into voting for policies.
Why do some people participate in politics more than others? That question is tackled in this chapter. Be sure you understand the explanation offered by something called the "standard economic model." The chapter also documents the low voter turnout in America compared with other nations and reasonably explains why our voting rates are so much lower. And it addresses a puzzle that has perplexed many scholars: why has voting turnout in the U.S. declined since the early 1950s? That is not explained by the standard economic model. Review the alternative explanations for the decline in voting turnout over time, determining which make most sense to you. Scholars are not certain themselves.
At the end of reading this chapter, you should be prepared to discuss how political participation relates to freedom, equality, and order. We argue that political participation can promote disorder as well as order. How is that possible? By the end of the chapter, you should also be able to identify several functions that elections provide to a political system apart from selecting candidates or choosing among policies. If you are able to understand why the act of voting serves majoritarian democracy while other forms of political participation serves pluralist democracy, you will have grasped a central message of the chapter.