The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the position of ZU Media or APU
Single-issue voting is dangerous to a successful democracy.
Take a moment and imagine you are going to the grocery store to pick up some milk. When you reach the correct aisle, you see there are countless options available. So how do you make your decision?
There are many attributes of the product to consider such as price, quality, nutritional value and even the ethics of the brand. Most of us let the attributes that are most important to us and that affect us the most make the decision for us.
Now, let’s widen our focus. We are not shopping for milk but are evaluating which candidate to vote for. Each candidate has many attributes and policies that make up their platform, so do we consider all of their ideas in our decision making process, or do we instead choose by examining a single policy that is the most important to us?
The latter is often referred to as single-issue voting. Traditionally, it is generally thought of as taboo in politics. However, it is becoming increasingly popular among today’s voters.
Democrats are currently rallying behind the single-issue of removing Donald Trump from office. An ABC poll given to democratic voters in Michigan revealed that democrats are more concerned with nominating a candidate who can defeat President Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election than a candidate who shares their view on issues. This is the reason why Joe Biden was chosen as the party nominee as opposed to fan favorite Bernie Sanders — democrats believe that Biden can defeat Trump.
On the other hand, Republicans have demonstrated the same principle, most prevalent in the issue of abortion. A research study by PRRI found Americans who oppose abortion are more likely than those who support the legality of abortion to say they will only vote for a candidate who shares their views on the issue.
According to the median theory of elections, when one issue dominates an election, both candidates tend to move towards the center in order to include the greatest number of people on their side. If there are multiple issues, then candidates tend to take more extreme stances in order to gain support from special interest groups.
Furthermore, in chemistry, a litmus test is used to determine the acidity or alkalinity of a substance. In politics, a litmus test is a question whose answer will solely determine whether a candidate proceeds in the election process or not. The litmus test comes into play when there is a group with stronger voter intensity.
Even if only a small percentage of voters support an issue, if they support it so strongly that they treat it as a litmus issue, then they still hold the power. Other voters don’t support the issue but don’t treat it as a litmus test, so they may still vote for the candidate even if they adopt beliefs to cater to the more extreme voters.
Single-issue voting gives more power to political parties, because they can back one policy, push it really well and get votes without having to give an answer on their other policies. But this part weakens democracy, as the power should go back to the people and not political parties.
Parties are also now given the option of evolving core values to include a certain special interest group for votes. This is why Republicans and Democrats have different values today than their counterparts 100 years ago.
While an issue may be extremely important to you currently, something may take that spot in a few months. When comparing the lists of top ten voter priorities from 2018 to 2020, you will notice that three new policy categories were introduced and only one issue remained in the original position of importance.
In just two years, people’s priorities have changed because new and unprecedented circumstances, such as coronavirus, occur. So how come we vote for a four-year president based off of one issue?
All that being said, I understand some issues hit harder. There’s nothing wrong with being passionate about an issue, but it is our duty as citizens in a democratic society to see the bigger picture and the consequences of being small-minded.