Government » American Voting and Elections » Campaigns and Voting

Summary and Main Ideas


Campaigns must try to convince undecided voters to vote for a candidate and get the party voters to the polls. Early money allows candidates to start a strong campaign and attract other donations. The election year starts with primary campaigns, in which multiple candidates compete for each party’s nomination, and the focus is on name recognition and issue positions. General election campaigns focus on getting party members to the polls. Shadow campaigns and super PACs may run negative ads to influence voters. Modern campaigns use television to create emotions and the Internet to interact with supporters and fundraise.

Most voters will cast a ballot for the candidate from their party. Others will consider the issues a candidate supports. Some voters care about what candidates have done in the past, or what they may do in the future, while others are concerned only about their personal finances. Lastly, some citizens will be concerned with the candidate’s physical characteristics. Incumbents have many advantages, including war chests, franking privileges, and gerrymandering.

Practice Questions

  1. In what ways is voting your party identification an informed choice? In what ways is it lazy?
  2. Do physical characteristics matter when voters assess candidates? If so, how?

Sample Answer:

2. Voters tend to vote for candidates who look attractive and competent. They may consider race, gender, height, weight, and other physical attributes.


ballot fatigue: the result when a voter stops voting for offices and initiatives at the bottom of a long ballot

incumbency advantage: the advantage held by officeholders that allows them to often win reelection

shadow campaign: a campaign run by political action committees and other organizations without the coordination of the candidate

straight-ticket voting: the practice of voting only for candidates from the same party

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