The analysis of political behavior operates under the assumption that political behavior is not a special form of human activity, independent of what is known about general social behavior. (Political Behavior, 1968) The majority of political behavioral research is focused on identifying not only an individual’s behavior, but also with predicting the behavior of a group of people. It is understood that these groups do not exist without individuals; therefore, it is the individual dynamic that constitutes a collective group action. This is the focus of political behavioral research. The three widely accepted behavioral models of voter choice are: the sociological model, the social-psychological model, and the rational choice model. These three models diverge in methodology and application of research, but each has provided important data regarding the factors that influence voter choice.
The first behavioral model is the sociological model, or the Columbia model. The sociological model is a product of the research conducted to explain the voting behavior of the 1940 presidential election. This model surveyed the residents of Erie County, Ohio and drew conclusions based on the data collected. “The sociological model uses group level characteristics such as SES, religion, and place of residence to explain how people vote” (Bond & Smith, 417). There are six sociological factors that are viewed as group characteristics that impact vote choice, and they are race, religion, gender, income, education, and family voting history.
The important findings of the researched conducted includes, but is not limited to, determining that people tend to vote in the same way that they and their family has voted previously. The sociological model also helped establish that change does in fact occur, and “people under cross pressure are more likely to change.” (Voting Behavior). Perhaps the most important contribution of the sociological model is the theory that attitudes are formed and continually reinforced by a person’s associations and group membership. It is within these social groups that opinion leaders emerge. Opinion leaders not only stay informed of current events and politics, through media outlets, they also validate, or in some instances invalidate, the media messages. It is no wonder that there is evidentiary support for the claims that the sociological factors previously listed do impact a voter’s choice.
Unlike the other two voting behavior models, which will be discussed herein, the sociological model is more concerned with an individual’s process of obtaining and selecting political information, as opposed to how the individual impacts the group dynamic that leads to voter choice. It does a good job of explaining the differences in vote choice, but it does not explain why those differences exist. Another potential problem with the sociological behavioral model is the occasional shift of group loyalties. The study, as conducted,...