As the Midterm elections near, newspaper headlines scream candidate poll results. Coast to coast voters are imbued with the latest polling numbers for candidates from governor to state senator. But do these polls matter to the voters? Few people are affected by polling due to the ubiquitous discussion on their validity. How many people are they really polling (sometimes as little as 300 people), who are they polling (it’s hard to get a concrete definition of 350 million peoples thoughts) and where are they polling (rural vs urban voters is a serious divide)? People vote per their political socialization making their upbringing, careers/jobs, social circle, religion, and current trends in their lives the basis for their votes. The three most important influences appear to be geography, religion and media.
It’s In the City Water
The 2016 election map was awash in red. An in-depth view recognized patterns in cities turning out higher voter participation and with a predominantly Democrat majority. Recently, Selma, a largely African-American metropolis, overwhelmingly voted for Doug Jones to be the first Democratic senator in many years. Cities are the central area for minorities with a re-emergence of White dwellers. As demographic inversion continues to sprawl across America, people that grew up in conservative suburbs, townships and rural areas easily switch to the Democrat party. America isn’t just divided by the Mason-Dixon line in voting participation and party affiliation anymore, it’s now a bright lights, big city thing.
According to a study by NPR, more rural areas are collaborating and requesting help from states for funding. They are attempting to turn their ghost towns into vacation spots, re-ignite the abandoned manufacturing plants and battle the opioid crisis. As some suburban towns turn into sleeper communities, party affiliation may change as well. New residents will still work and socialize in the cities where their views are formed from liberal socialization. Lest we not forget the growing minority residencies in suburban and rural areas as well. They will eventually influence the vote as they have been across America. Expect as migration patterns change that voting patterns and colors of your state may enter a new season.
It’s God’s Country After All
Religion isn’t what it used to be. As scandals splash across American news, atheism has increased. According to Pew Research, nearly 40% of Millennials are atheists seconded by a stable 38% in the 30-49 years of age range-shall we call them Generation X. These generations are the largest combined segment of voters and are resoundingly Liberal. Republicans seem to have the advantage of religious connection to their party. A majority of Protestants not only vote Republican but believe they must as a duty to their religious views. The Republican party is the party of deeply conservative to conservative religious Americans. The Republicans will maintain strongholds where religion reigns such as the Bible Belt, Southern US and rural areas. The greatest problem for the Republicans will be finding candidates that they can promote as religious attendants. As more religious people switch parties and the Baby Boomers age (50+ voters become conservative), Liberals will continue to have a battle for the vote.
The Revolution Will Be Tweeted
As Millennials and Gen Xers become the largest combined voting force, they have a different relationship to media as their connection to social media is stronger and growing. These outlets have a profound effect on news sharing of views that were once held on newspaper headlines. The Great generation and Baby Boomers still watch nightly news and read the newspaper which have very slanted opinions and re-run the same stories repeatedly. The political stories focus upon traditional political campaigning and candidate interviews with a plethora of negative ads. Mass media is prefabricated for positive influence for the campaign or candidate while social media can reach millions more voters with new and engaging posts that can be curtailed to statistically relevant posts/stories. An 18-year-old new voter will be more attracted to a YouTube video of a current music star touting a candidate than a newspaper ad describing a candidate’s political history. Millennials and Gen Xers do not have the attention span to read in-depth analysis, they are more likely to like a meme or GIF or Tweet that appeals to their immediate tastes. A barrage of Tweets that are Re-Tweeted by popular people in their “social” circle of followers and stars has a deeper effect. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and texting can also send different messages and videos throughout the day than the average ads on TV. These outlets also have immediate statistical analysis of the popularity or failure of a message unlike TV polls that can take a week or more.
These generations are also more likely to watch new channels of TV including Hulu, Netflix and cable that will not have state and local campaign ads. Campaigns have struggled to adapt to new media namely their inability to connect Nielsen ratings and viewership to an audience. A direct text message or Tweet or Facebook post motivates these generations as they feel a personalization of the ads. As social media rises, so will these voters.
It’s More Than A Popularity Contest
As the Midterms near we will see a new shape-shifting in voter turnout and the votes cast. Midterms have historically low voter turnout but new political socialization may change that. Early voting has risen again with a majority of Republicans making sure to get their ballots counted. Just think about these issues when the election numbers are counted. You may have an edge in that holiday dinner discussion on how we will vote as a nation in the future.