We all vote based on different kinds of reasons and for diverse leadership qualities. Whatever rationale one has, our democracy grants one the right to vote and to use that right however one wants. However, the secrecy of the ballot entails we can never tell how well people use that right.
Hence, it is important to have more civic education and a good constitution to strengthen people's effective participation into the democratic process, not by merely voting but by voting based on credible information. Let’s have a look at what kind of voters we may be and the associated biases we can avoid.
The Self-Benefit Voter:
These make up a candidate’s support base as they simply cannot bend. They are usually the party leaders,relatives, friends and sponsors who expect a direct benefit from the candidate’s victory. The quality of this support base can have a positive influence on the other types of voters. This voter’s reasons are compromised and engaging them in a debate is mostly useless as they are biased and not open to criticism. Lesson: We can’t change their minds, the only thing we can do is observe their conduct as this can reflect their true intention for the country.
The sympathy Voter:
For instance, these voters will vote for President John Mahama because of late Professor Atta Mills presidency was inadvertent cut short. These voters will vote for President John Mahama because the Late President Atta Mills trusted him with power. These voters will vote for President John Mahama because he didn't finish his term. These voters will vote for Nana Akuffo Addo because he has lost several times. The sympathy voter, is an emotional voter who will relate to the circumstances of the candidate and not the qualities. Emotional voting should be avoided by all means period. Lesson: These voters need to learn that the interest of the nation are more important than the compensation to a candidate in whatever circumstances.
The Wind Voter:
Are you a voter who goes with the wind, you follow the crowd, use the buzz words and spend more time chanting party slogans than debating issues? You may want to fit in with peers and are too lazy to make independent decisions. You need to know that it is not about the name of the candidate but their message and track record. The ruling party and the strongest opposition usually captures these voters and the supporters may switch allegiance between the two. These voters need to look beyond the noise and watch the conduct of party officials not their words. Lesson: These voters need to learn the elections are not just for the moment but that their decision will shape them next four years.
The Undecided Voter:
This voter make his or her decision in the last few days. They spend most of their time listening or criticising all the candidates. They are pessimists and require more explanations from candidates and not rhetoric. They usually have nothing in common with the candidates or party and may feel there are segregated from the political process. The undecided may have been disappointed by their preferred candidate’s past performance and have lost hope in them. These may also include minorities, certain religious groupings or races. Lesson: Politicians are not perfect but there is always a lesser evil, your vote may be amongst the best ones.
The Common Interest Voter:
This voter engages in the politics and spends time listening to candidates and fellow electorates. They are receptive to all candidates and prefer one who meets their most valued interest. They are usually the first timers or young voters who want tertiary education, the women who want empowerment, the nurses who want better working conditions or young entrepreneurs who want contracts. These voters will make good decision depending on how much information is made available to them. Due to their numbers they form a very good swing vote. Lesson: Don’t concentrate on one common interest with the candidate but look at the whole picture or the context in which your interests will be met.
The disaffected Voter:
These voters are highly discontented towards authority. They feel the whole system is a failure and a candidate or party with a poor track record does not stand a chance. They are the employees or traders who can’t get a loan, the graduate who can’t find a job, the unpaid retirees, the nurses who got fired, the working class family that is financially stressed and the disgruntled unions, civil society or NGOs. This voter group distrusts politicians but lookout for better alternatives.
These voters have experience with election candidates and will improve their choice with every election that comes. Lesson: Don’t make the mistake of giving up on voting, you are probably the most important group due to you large numbers and good judgement
The Sophiscated Voter:
This voter is educated, has a good job, may be highly engaged in politics, or is a political analyst or pundit and is well informed. This voter knows what he wants and asks the ‘how’ questions. He is not influenced by populism or the wind of change but makes independent decisions.
He has preference to an equally educated candidate and well explained manifestos. He is sensitive to questionable characters and seeks improvement in the style of politics. This voter knows there is no best candidate but can objectively chose a better candidate. Lesson: Most of these voters need to engage more in debates with everyone not just amongst themselves, because they can add value to the process.
Politics as a game of numbers, a politician cannot ignore one voter group for the other. Each group has some influence over the other and each group can be the difference between victory or loss. They say “your vote counts” but your good vote matters more. Identify which group you belong to, look out for the biases and choose wisely. Ibrahim Hardi,contact 0208235615,Email [email protected]