A core part of our elections forecast model is the notion of ‘strongholds’ and ‘swing regions’. This same notion applies to the parliamentary race at the constituency level. Peel back the layers though and what you find at the root of the bifurcation is the relative shares of the different types of voters that make up the electorate. In this piece we attempt to classify voters into 4 buckets.
So what type are you?
- The Party Loyalist – the first type of voter is of the kind who’s loyalties lie with a political party first, and the candidates or policy platforms second. You could say stronghold regions or constituencies simply have a very high percentage of party loyalists. Even if a party nominates a tuber of yam as their candidate for president, the party loyalist will still cast a vote for said tuber of yam. On a more serious note, the behavior of party loyalists have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the elections, given the fact that they make up the majority of the electorate. If a party loyalist judges his or her party’s performance in government to be very poor, then the loyalist is more likely to stay at home and not vote rather than switch their support to the opposition.
- The Issues Voter – the second type of voter is one who makes their decision to support a candidate largely based on a single or a set of policy bundles that that candidate is proposing. Some Issues Voters like to pretend they are better informed than the other types of voters, given their focus on policy. The reality though is that there are a lot of single-issue voters who make up their mind because of a single policy item that is deeply meaningful to them. This is the kind of voter who is drawn to the NPP’s free SHS or the NDC’s proposed free healthcare. The are some that will say basing your choice of support on a single issue is not a very good thing. At the end of the day, a functioning liberal democracy allows for any registered voter to make up their mind on whatever moves them about the elections and to follow through by casting a vote. This brings us to the third type of voter.
- The Sentimentalist – the third type of voter is one who is drawn to a candidate by their charm, charisma, personality, etc. They might like the look of the candidate or the sound of their voice. Regardless of the candidate’s policy platform or the party they represent, the sentimentalist casts a ballot of support largely based on something intangible about the candidate that moves them. But don’t be quick to dismiss the Sentimentalist on the basis of casting a ballot premised on shallow reasons. Voting for a candidate just because they are from your tribe, or because you identify with their gender or religion counts you as a Sentimentalist.
- The Reactionary – the last type of voter we encounter is a bit unusual. There are some people who just like to vote for change, regardless of who is in power and the kind of change promised by an opposition candidate. Our reactionary voter changes their party of choice each election cycle, priding themselves on an independent lean that is above any kind of party affiliation or sentimental identification with a particular candidate. Think of the Reactionary voter as the true opposite of the Party loyalist.
- Perhaps in the course of reading this article, you’ve picked one of the typologies listed above. But here at Vote233, we see electoral outcomes through the lens of probabilities and as such I challenge you to not think of these typologies as discrete entities. While we like to assure ourselves that we fit a certain bill and not another, the truth is often that we shift identities depending on the unique aspects of the electoral contexts we find ourselves in.
- You might be a Party Loyalist who finds him or herself suddenly drawn to the charisma of the opposition candidate. Or you might be a Reactionary who strongly identifies with the incumbent background story. This then presents the possibility that no one voter is entirely of one type and not another. Think of it as being something like 70% Party Loyalist, 20% Issues Voter, 5% Sentimentalist and 5% Reactionary. It sounds complicated. I know. Human beings are not simple one-dimensional entities.