Does Voting Truly Matter? The Impact of American Choice.
Does voting matter? Because of political history, a multitude of people believe that their vote doesn’t count. “What's the point? “They’re not going to listen to us anyways,” we might think.
Nowadays, it’s incredibly easy to believe this way. Roughly a 3rd of Americans abstain from voting. "NPR and the Medill School of Journalism commissioned Ipsos to conduct a survey of U.S. adults who didn't vote. A primary reason for this is feeling like their vote won’t matter."
“It's more that these voters feel a sense of alienation and apathy. They are generally detached from the news and pessimistic about politics, the survey found.Politics is simply not the way to make change, they said. Two-thirds of nonvoters agree, for example, that voting has little to do with the way that real decisions are made in this country; they are 21 points more likely to say so than people who voted. A majority also said they believe it makes no difference who is elected president and that things will go on just as they did before. Nonvoters were 29 points more likely to say that than people who voted” (NPR, 2022).
However, change largely comes to fruition through public advocacy. Advocacy is the public support for or the recommendation of a particular cause or policy, and voting is one of the best ways we can publicly advocate for what matters to us the most. “Issues are constructed by political leaders, the media, and social movements. Social problems do not just exist out there in the world; they have to be made known to the public and accepted by others in order to be legitimized (Wagner 2012, 6).”
So, while yes, there are other factors that compete with our ability to make change as voters, voting makes publicly known and legitimizes what’s important, normal, or abnormal to American voters. Voting plays an important part in establishing social norms, which in turn, plays a huge part in social movements and therefore, policy. For example, if you’re in a room full a people, and your boss makes a rule that you don’t like or find strange, you might be less likely to advocate against it if you think you’re the only one. But, if he takes a vote just to say “he’ll consider what everyone has to say,” you might be more likely to take action upon seeing that more than half of the room agrees with you.
It’s the same way with voting. Voting not only helps leaders, but it helps the American people get a clear view of society’s current state. When it comes to issues such as creating human rights policies, a clear view of public opinion influences social norms, and likewise, what is “normally considered” a human right. For example, even though prejudiced beliefs still exist, people are less likely to advocate for policies that reserve “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” as a privilege meant for a certain group of people as opposed to an inalienable right for all. This is because social norms have changed. Largely, public discrimination is not normal to American people anymore, and what is a better way to confirm this than seeing how people vote? As mentioned before, norms and social issues have to be legitimized first before change happens.
And to expand further on the idea of human rights, while it is true that policies are informed by businesses and politicians, it is also true that social movements inform policy. For example, The Inflation Reduction Act was enacted the past summer. “The Inflation Reduction Act aims to lower healthcare costs for families, caps out-of-pocket spending for Medicare beneficiaries, and allows the federal government to negotiate prices on the costliest prescription drugs. It also aims to require drug makers to pay a rebate to Medicare if they raise prices too sharply” (Whitehouse. gov).
Today, Americans pay two to three times what citizens of other countries pay for prescription drugs. Arecent Kaiser Family Foundation surveyfound about 8 in 10 adults say the cost of prescription drugs is unreasonable. This is the public opinion, and it encourages the senate to take action on these public concerns. However, in time, policies can be reformed in not so wonderful ways. That’s why it’s important to vote for leaders that will maintain positive and permanent change.
Human rights like being able to access care when sick should not be a partisan concern. Healthcare is an American concern, and upon acknowledging this, both sides were able to come together for a moment to pass something that matters to The American People. However, for change like this to happen again, we must collectively be aware of what truly matters. When we vote, we not only choose leaders, we influence the decisions they’re inclined to make. So, choose what matters today, what will change tomorrow, and cast your ballot soon.
Cover Photocred: Inc.magazine