The problems with single-issue voting

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While some issues may be more important than others to voters of different backgrounds, looking at all of a politician’s stances is essential when deciding on a candidate to support. Photo by Katie Chaikowsky.

Election cycles are often a time of uncertainty for many voters. Looking at candidates’ positions and assessing which candidates will be the best prepared for the positions they are campaigning to fill can seem an impossible challenge.

Most likely, no candidate will align perfectly with your viewpoints or your moral compass. Politics, especially national politics, is where ideological purity goes to die. Generally, your goal as a voter is to find the candidate who is the “lesser evil”: the one who aligns most with your viewpoints. You have other considerations to make as well. Will this candidate have a chance of winning? Will this candidate have enough experience for the job? Is this candidate honest? All of these and more are vitally important concerns you should have before casting your vote on election day.

While there are many issues to look into before choosing a candidate, some voters choose their candidate solely on one political idea. Single-issue voters, as they have come to be called, usually feel strongly about one issue and are willing to ignore a host of others as long as the candidate they are supporting agrees with them in that one regard. These issues are often based on personal morality.

Using your vote to push a singular agenda is irresponsible. Sure, the issue might be important to you, but ignoring everything else at stake for that one issue doesn’t allow for compromise. In fact, it oftentimes means that candidates who check all the other boxes are then passed over due to a stance regarding a single policy.

For example, many Catholic voters prioritize the issue of abortion over every other. Maintaining a pro-life worldview in the face of a slew of other political considerations tends to be the dominant factor in selecting a candidate in Catholic communities, including at the University of Dallas. While this makes sense from a religious perspective, it also means that there are a number of other issues being ignored. The death penalty, immigration, foreign policy and healthcare issues, which can deeply affect the lives of many, are often ignored in favor of voting primarily in regard to abortion.

On the other side, many in the Democratic Party were upset with the choice of Tim Kaine as vice president because he — a devout Catholic — personally opposed abortion. During his time as Virginia’s governor, Kaine supported parental notice laws and bans on late term abortions. While in the Senate, Kaine had a 100 percent pro-choice voting record and was given the stamp of approval by Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation.

This kind of extreme vetting on the part of voters is fairly normal, if a bit ridiculous. However, there are some issues that are even more dramatically simplified than this.

For example, in the 2016 presidential cycle, many young voters were swayed into voting for Bernie Sanders because of his promise to end the prohibition of marijuana at the federal level, thus allowing the states to decide its legality. He also supported a move to legalize marijuana for medicinal use. Gary Johnson, the libertarian candidate, held similar positions, and had been a longtime advocate for the legalization movement, drawing in some voters who had previously supported Sanders in part due to his stance on marijuana legalization.

After losing the primary to Hillary Clinton by over 3 million votes, Sanders suspended his presidential bid. Some Sanders supporters, also motivated by their distaste for the former secretary of state, voted for the libertarian candidate on Nov. 8. This refusal to consider other candidates whose stances on more fundamental issues which align with some of those supported by Sanders demonstrates an insincere interest in many of the issues for which Sanders advocated on the campaign trail. Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist shared almost no common ground on other policy issues with the libertarian candidate.

These are only some of the examples of single-issue voting that end up being detrimental in the long run and to other issues. Most people do not vote this way, but there is a sizeable portion of the voting population that does. Besides ignoring other issues that are equally important, or even more so, than the issue they care about, single-issue voters are also forced to support the candidate who agrees with them on this issue, even if that candidate is morally unfit to hold the office in question. A broader consideration of a wide variety of political issues may allow for better-informed and more effective voting.

 

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