Why Do Voters Make the Decisions They Do on Election Day?

Martha Dawson/WDET

Tuesday is Primary Day in Michigan, and in many ways it’s a big election. It’s the first time we’ve seen a wide open field for governor in nearly a decade. It’s also the day we’ll find out who will replace the longtime congressman from Detroit, John Conyers. And it’s the beginning of the first midterm election cycle during the presidency of Donald Trump.

We’ll begin to find out of Michigan voters support the president, generally, or view this election as a referendum on Trump’s handling of the executive office.

Click here to find out more about Tuesday’s primaries.
Click here to find out what will be on your ballot when you head to the polls.

Stephen Henderson asks listeners to talk about why they vote. Not who they are voting for, but why and how they decide to vote.

What motivates voters to make the selections they do in the voting booth? Is it party, or ideology? Is it practicality - whoever you think has the strongest chance to win?

Matt Grossman, associate professor of political science at Michigan State University, and Masha Krupenkin, political science PhD candidate at Stanford University, join Detroit Today to talk about what research shows about why and how voters vote.

Grossman says voters can be motivated by civic duty, but also by election-specific reasons, such as a candidate or issue they care about.

Krupenkin says voters are increasingly motivated by a dislike of the opposite party, rather than support of the party with which they identify.

In her research on “The Strengthening of Partisan Affect”, Krupenkin finds:

We find that while partisan animus began to rise in the 1980s, it has grown dramatically over the past two decades. As partisan affect has intensified, it is also more structured; ingroup favoritism is increasingly associated with outgroup animus. Finally, hostility toward the opposing party has eclipsed positive affect for ones’ own party as a motive for political participation.

To hear from Gossman and Krupenkin on Detroit Today, click on the audio player above.



Image credit: Jake Neher/WDET

This post is a part of 2018 Elections in Michigan.

On November 6, Michigan voters will decide who will be the state's new governor, attorney general and secretary of state. Some state House and Senate seats are up for grabs, and numerous initiatives are expected on ballots.

WDET is committed to providing honest, fair, inclusive coverage of Michigan's 2018 elections. Join us now and all the way to the voting booth to be an informed voter.


About the Author

Detroit Today

Dynamic and diverse voices. News, politics, community and the issues that define our region. Hosted by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Stephen Henderson, Detroit Today brings you fresh and perceptive views weekdays at 9 am and 7 pm.


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