Professor: Voters go with candidate they feel will provide them safety, security

Americans are selfish when it comes to voting, according to one Eastern New Mexico University professor.

History professor Suzanne Balch-Lindsay says voters in Tuesday's election most likely will select the presidential candidate they feel will provide them the most safety and security.

She says it's a factor that never changes because the average American often worries about protecting "me and mine."

Christina Calloway: Portales News-Tribune

Eastern New Mexico history professor Suzanne Balch-Lindsay, left, meets with her student, senior Evelyn Escobar, Friday in her office. Balch-Lindsay says American voters are influenced by their perception of safety.

"An individual's political behavior has as much or more to do with enlightened self-interest and an individual's perception of security and safety," Balch-Lindsay said.

People vote for who they perceive will guarantee them security, whether it be economically or a protection of rights, and the party that promotes their ideas of it, she said.

"Whether it's the 18th or 21st century, people are motivated by those same instincts," she said.

She added that often times people that feel their interests are threatened focus more on voting against a candidate that presents those threats rather than choosing one they see is better fit.

"There's never going to be a perfect fit; you don't ever agree 100 percent with your party's candidate," Balch-Lindsay said. "Rather, people think deeply about what is best for society."

Ohio State University professor of psychology and political science Jon A. Krosnick's research findings seems to agree with Balch-Lindsay's theory on Americans reacting to the bad guy, according to an ABC news article written by Lee Dye.

Krosnick's research suggests that voters are far more likely to turn out when they dislike a candidate than one they do. He said in order to have high voter turnout, America needs a saint and a villain, according to Dye's article.

Krosnick's research also suggests factors such as mud-slinging and first impressions can cause people to vote the way they do.

ENMU assistant professor of history Valerie McKito says she expects the economy to play a huge factor in the way people vote Tuesday.

"People expect results, they want (the economy) to turn around now," McKito said. "Job creation is better but not as good as pre-recession numbers."

Foreign affairs is another area that can help sway voters, according to McKito.

"As far as the war in the Middle East, we have made great strides in this area," McKito said.

She says that American voters often times want to breathe new life into politics, so they decide to bring in a new party. She describes American voting behaviors as fickle.

"In the 1920's, Herbert Hoover had the largest landslide in history up until that time," McKito said. "Then the Great Depression hit and he didn't know how to respond to it and Franklin D. Roosevelt won the next election. Truman was his successor, then Truman was blamed for China becoming a communist country. We tend to show our agitation."

McKito said history proves a candidate's debate performance also plays a significant role in how people vote, citing the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1958 as an example.

"Stephen Douglas challenged Republican Abraham Lincoln, this no-name candidate, to debate and Lincoln just swatted him," she said. "As a result, the Democratic party split and they ran two candidates that year."

She also believes voting within party lines is becoming more common.

"People just don't know all of the issues," McKito said. "It becomes easier to like the presidential candidate and then vote for everyone in their party."

And although religion has had heavy influence on a voter's selection of a candidate, McKito feels that is no longer the case.

"Religion is not as big a factor as it used to be," she said. "People now tend to vote more community-oriented."

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