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Mass Political Behavior

In democracies, the study of mass political behavior focuses attention on voting decisions, voter turnout, and unconventional political behavior. Each is reviewed in turn in this entry. Generally speaking, there are three approaches to understanding voting: the sociological model, the social-psychological model, and the rational voter model.

The Sociological Model

Early voting studies, conducted in the 1940s and 1950s, were carried out at Columbia University and were characterized by their sociological approach, which placed an emphasis on group characteristics in determining the vote. In these early studies, Lazarsfeld and colleagues examined voters in Erie County, Ohio, and Elmira, New York. They developed an index of political predispositions that were related to voting decisions. Such demographic characteristics as education, income, class, religion, and rural or urban residence explained ...

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