Voting Behavior, Theories of

Scholarship on voting behavior is driven by two fundamental questions: What are the factors that determine whether people will vote? And, What factors determine for whom they will cast a ballot? Theories of voting behavior span a wide range of alternative factors, from sociological effects of group membership to psychological factors of motivated reasoning. This entry provides an overview of theories of voting behavior.

Sociological Explanations

One of the earliest schools of thought on voting was the Columbia school (so called for the studies conducted in the 1940s and 1950s by scholars at Columbia University). The Columbia school focused on sociological explanations—how group memberships predicted voting results and the role of people’s families, friends, coworkers, and associations in the formation of preferences. According to the Columbia school, ...

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