This revised 2012 edition sketches the way primary and general elections work, not only the role of political parties, but also the nuts and bolts of voting machines and poll workers, opinion polls and campaign finance
U.S. Elections 2012
What is a Dossier?Via the dossiers, we try to highlight the priorities of the US Government with regard to specific foreign policy policy issues. We provide statements by U.S. public officials, but also reports, hearings, and journal articles.
Free and fair elections are the keystone of any democracy. They are essential for the peaceful transfer of power. The United States has been a representative democracy since the ratification of the U.S. Constitution in 1788 — although the electoral tradition began during the colonial era and had its roots in British history.
Live Streaming during Election night:
- Youtube Elections Hub: http://www.youtube.com/politics?feature=inp-bp-ype-01 Provides a one-stop spot for live footage and video news coverage of the 2012 Elections.
- CSPAN Campaign 2012: http://www.c-span.org/Campaign2012 Live video broadcasts.
- Voice of America Elections Coverage: http://www.voanews.com/section/usa_votes_2012/2209.html
- CNN International: In addition to broadcasting live on television, CNN will also live stream on their Elections Center via http://edition.cnn.com/election/2012
Major US Government Statements
A select list of major statements with policy value.
Latest US Government Statements
The most recent statements in reverse chronological order.
Contemporary Developments in Presidential Elections. Source: CRS Report for Congress, Oct. 18, 2012.
USA Elections in Brief (3.8 MB) 04 January 2012
This revised 2012 edition sketches the way primary and general elections work, not only the role of political parties, but also the nuts and bolts of voting machines and poll workers, opinion polls and campaign finance.
"Youth Votes! The 2012 U.S. Elections" in PDF Format (9.6MB) Millennials Rock the Vote.
This issue of eJournal USA looks at how the Millennials — Americans born from the early 1980s to the mid-1990s — are changing the face of the U.S. electorate and politics. How are they different from previous generations? What is at stake for the Millennial Generation in the November 2012 election? Are they joining the two major U.S. political parties? And why do they support various candidates and causes?
You will find answers to many of these questions in a Facebook debate between young Democratic and Republican activists, in blogs by campaign volunteers and in the Millennial Generation portrait grounded in recent data.
What is clear is that young Americans remain optimistic and committed to democracy, even as they face the most challenging economy and job market since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
Foreign Press Center Briefings
-07/13/12 How to Cover Political Conventions; Washington, DC
-06/20/12 Social Media and the 2012 U.S. Presidential Elections; Washington, DC
-05/23/12 The Senior Vote in the 2012 Election; Washington, DC
-05/04/12 Election 2012: The African American Vote; Washington, DC
-04/13/12 Election 2012: The Role of Independents; Washington, DC
-03/23/12 The Role of the Media in U.S. Elections; Washington, DC
-03/16/12 Campaign Finance in U.S. Elections; Washington, DC
-03/13/12 Election 2012: The Alabama and Mississippi Primaries; New York, NY
-03/06/12 Election 2012: Super Tuesday; Washington, DC
-03/06/12 The Ohio Primary Election; New York, NY
-03/05/12 Economic Issues in the 2012 Election; New York, NY
-02/01/12 Readout of the Florida Primary and a Look Ahead at the Upcoming Caucuses and Primaries; Washington, DC
-01/31/12 Analyzing the Florida Primary; Washington, DC
-01/30/12 Orientation on Applying for Work Spaces, Sky Boxes, and Stand-Up Positions for National Conventions and Accreditation; Washington, DC
-01/23/12 South Carolina Primary Analysis and Looking Ahead to the Florida Primary; Washington, DC
-01/20/12 Preview of the 2012 South Carolina Primary Election; Washington, DC
-01/18/12 Campaign 2012 Moves South: Previewing the South Carolina and Florida Primaries; New York, NY
-01/10/12 Primary Day in New Hampshire: The View from Academia; New York, NY
-01/10/12 Primary Day in New Hampshire: The View from the Editor's Chair; New York, NY
-01/05/12 Analyzing the Iowa Caucuses; Previewing the New Hampshire Primary; New York, NY
-01/05/12 Readout of the Iowa Caucuses; Latest Polls on the Upcoming New Hampshire Primary; and the State of the Obama Re-Election Campaign; Washington, DC
-01/03/12 2012 Iowa Caucuses Update; Washington, DC
-12/22/11 Preview of the 2012 Iowa Caucuses; New York, NY
-12/16/11 The Role of Foreign Policy in the 2012 U.S. Presidential Elections; Washington, DC
-12/06/11 The Process of Electing the President of the United States: Role of Caucuses, Primaries and National Conventions; Washington, DC
-06/21/11 2012 Presidential Election - How Are Republican Governors Affecting Their Party's Chances?; Washington, DC
-01/27/12 Presidential Nominating Process: Current Issues Source: CRS Report for Congress.
-01/09/12 Contemporary Developments in Presidential Elections Source: CRS Report for Congress.
USA Elections in Brief in PDF Format (3.8MB) This book discusses the nature of the modern American electoral process and how it works at the federal, state, and local levels. The process, complicated and sometimes confusing, has evolved to ensure universal suffrage to all men and women who are U.S. citizens 18 years of age or older.
State of the Union
The President’s State of the Union Message: Frequently Asked Questions. Source: CRS Report for Congress.
The President’s State of the Union Address: Tradition, Function, and Policy Implications. Source: CRS Report for Congress.
Presidential Speech Archive, including SOTU. Source: Miller Center.
U.S. Presidential Debates:
Third Presidential Debate: Audio & Transcript: http://www.npr.org/2012/10/22/163436694/transcript-3rd-obama-romney-presidential-debate
First U.S. Presidential Debate:
Watch again: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dkrwUU_YApE&feature=youtu.be
Read a transcript: http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=102317
Social Media and Politics: Do Facebook and Twitter influence voters? Tom Price, CQ Researcher, October 12, 2012, var. pages. "Social media, including Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, have become major battlegrounds in this year's elections. Candidates are using the platforms to identify and organize supporters and raise funds. They bypass traditional news media to send their messages unfiltered to the public. They target niche audiences with growing precision, contact hard-to-reach voters, extend their influence as online supporters forward their messages and carry out many campaign tasks at much lower cost than before. The increasing ability of campaign strategists to collect and analyze information about individual voters has raised privacy concerns, and many worry that the social networks' insular nature contributes to political polarization. But social media's low cost, ease of use and wide reach also raise hopes that they can level the campaign-spending playing field." READ MORE
Long Live the Exit Poll. D. James Greiner & Kevin M. Quinn, Daedalus, Fall 2012, pp. 9-22. "We discuss the history of the exit poll as well as its future in an era characterized by increasingly effective and inexpensive alternatives for obtaining information. With respect to the exit poll's future, we identify and assess four purposes it might serve. We conclude that the exit poll's most important function in the future should, and probably will, be to provide information about the administration of the franchise and about the voter's experience in casting a ballot. The nature of this purpose suggests that it may make sense for academic institutions to replace media outlets as the primary implementers of exit polls." READ MORE
Serving Democracy, or America, Abroad? Linda Kinstler, World Policy Journal, Fall 2012, var. pages. “Linda Kinstler examines the U.S. Commission on Presidential Debates and its efforts to export American-style debates to other nations. She argues that the CPD needs to loosen its rigid guidelines, which are stifling debate around the globe. While it attempts to foster a homegrown democratic culture, it often only legitimizes corrupt politicians instead.” READ MORE
The New Price of American Politics. James Bennet, The Atlantic, October 2012, var. pages. "Not since the Gilded Age has our politics been opened so wide to corporate contributions and donations from secret sources. And the new era of big money has just begun. Jim Bopp, its intellectual architect, believes this is a good thing—the more money, the better, he says. Reformers (and most voters) disagree. Their battle is over the most-basic ideas of our democracy; at stake—according to both sides—is either the revitalization of politics, or its final capture by the powerful." READ MORE
Class, health, and the American elections. Laurie Garrett, The Lancet, September 2012, pp. 791-794. “Laurie Garrett reviews the complex social, political, and financial issues at play ahead of the Nov 6 US presidential election and their implications for domestic and global health programmes. The national elections are in full campaign swing in the USA, with a strong focus on class emerging in debates to a degree not seen for decades in American politics. The conservative Republican Party leadership has repeatedly accused President Barack Obama of fomenting ‘class warfare’ while the Democrats insist their party is the voice of the country's middle class. Fundamentally, the 2012 election reflects a Grand Canyon scale rift through the national psyche over the importance of government, provision of tax-supported public goods, including health care, and who is responsible for the 2008 financial crisis and ongoing economic doldrums.” READ MORE
Obama and Romney: The Path to the Presidency. Jon Decker, Policy Review, August 1, 2012, var. pages. "It’s certain to be the most expensive presidential race on record and it’s shaping up to be one of the closest as well. With less than three months until Election Day, the campaigns of President Barack Obama and his Republican challenger, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, are each figuring out which path will lead them to 270 electoral votes and the keys to the White House." READ MORE
The November Surprise. David Rothkopf, Foreign Policy, Sep/Oct 2012, var. pages. "Forget October bombshells. The real surprise in the 2012 U.S. presidential campaign will come when disaffected voters shun the polls." READ MORE
The News Media and the Rise of Negativity in Presidential Campaigns. John G. Geer, PS, Political Science & Politics, July 2012, pp. 422-427. "Negative ads have become increasingly common in presidential campaigns. Figure 1 well illustrates this point (see also West 2009). The upcoming 2012 elections will almost surely augment this upward trend of more and more negativity. In fact, with the emergence of Super Pacs, the share of attack ads in 2012 will likely be significantly higher than in 2008, which in and of itself was the high-water mark for attack ads in the modern era. The harsh tone of the battle for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination certainly points toward an exceptionally nasty fall campaign." READ MORE
Voter Rights: Should photo IDs be required at the ballot box? Peter Katel, CQ Researcher, May 18, 2012, var. pages. "A partisan conflict over voter identification is intensifying as this year's presidential election approaches. Republican state lawmakers have promoted voter-ID requirements in the name of instilling confidence in the electoral system and reducing what they argue is rampant voter fraud. The strictest laws require voters to produce an unexpired, government-issued photo ID at the polls. Studies have found little evidence of “impersonation” fraud in which someone casts a ballot under somebody else's name, but Republicans say the practice is common enough to warrant concern. Democrats, however, maintain that such fraud is rare and argue that photo-ID laws are aimed at reducing turnout by voters who lean Democratic — including minorities, students and the elderly. Some studies show disproportionately lower ID possession among those groups, but Republicans say minority turnout in states requiring a photo ID has increased." READ MORE
Polls and Elections: Do Blacks and Whites See Obama through Race-Tinted Glasses? A Comparison of Obama's and Clinton's Approval Ratings. M. Abrajano and C.M. Burnett, Presidential Studies Quarterly, June 2012, pp. 363–375. "Recent presidential approval trends have led many pollsters to conclude that a 'racial gap' exists in President Barack Obama's job approval ratings. Pollsters have focused disproportionately on the substantial gap between Blacks and Whites. Some political commentators and media outlets attribute this divergence to the fact that Obama is the first ethnic/racial minority to occupy the White House. The existence of a White-Black gap, however, could merely reflect the differences in the political preferences of White and Black Americans. In this article, we assess these two competing arguments by analyzing CNN polling data spanning President Obama's inauguration in January 2009 to June 2011. For comparative purposes, we examine Time/CNN polling data that begins with President Bill Clinton's inauguration in January 1993 to June 1995. Our findings suggest that the gap in Black support for President Obama is significantly larger than it is for President Clinton, providing evidence that racial group pride and solidarity appear to play an important role in Blacks' evaluations of Obama." READ MORE
The Rise and Fall of Nasty Politics in America. Daniel M. Shea; Alex Sproveri, PS. Political Science & Politics, July 2012, pp. 416-421. "It is fair to say that a great swath of forest was sacrificed for the study of negative campaigning. As we might hope and expect, a great deal has been learned since our initial assumptions that negative ads would be the downfall of our republic. (For an excellent review of this literature, see Geer 2006). This PS symposium and a spate of recent work (for example, see Herbst 2010; Shea and Fiorina 2012; Sobieraj and Berry 2011), suggest growing interest in a somewhat different form of negativity: the tone of political discourse, or what we might call levels of civility in politics. Much of this work has centered on the impact of nasty politics on individuals (Forgette and Morris 2006; Mutz 2007; Mutz and Reeves 2005; Fridkin and Kenney 2008). Might vitriol turn off citizens and lead to increased levels of distrust and cynicism?" READ MORE
2012 American Values Survey: Partisan Polarization Surges During Bush, Obama Years. Source: Pew Research Center, June 4, 2012
Americans’ values and basic beliefs are more polarized along partisan lines than at any point in the past 25 years. Party has now become the single largest fissure in American society, with the values gap between Republicans and Democrats greater than gender, age, race or class divides. The parties also have become smaller and more ideologically homogeneous over this period. Republicans are dominated by conservatives, while a smaller but growing number of Democrats are liberals.
The survey finds that neither party is solely responsible for the growing partisan gap. In different ways, both Democratic and Republican values have become more partisan over the past 25 years — and polarization extends to independents as well.
- Swing Voters’ Values v. Obama, Romney Voters
- Republicans’ Support for Safety Net Plummets
- Democrats Become More Secular
- Majority Still Believe ‘The Rich Get Richer’
5 Reasons Obama Will Win in November. Aaron David Miller, Foreign Affairs, April 25, 2012, var. pages. "The election is six months away, but here's why the president already has this one in the bag. Worrying about getting reelected is part of a president's job description, but this president really shouldn't be all that concerned. The election is bound to be closer than in 2008, but when it's over, the presidential gods will likely have smiled kindly on Barack Obama. Here are the top five reasons why." READ MORE
Presidential Election: Can Obama withstand the Republican challenge? Bob Benenson, The CQ Researcher, February 3, 2012 , pp. 101-124. “The 2012 contest pitting President Obama against a yet-to-be-determined Republican challenger ranks as one of the most intriguing presidential campaigns in history. Two powerful populist factions — the conservative Tea Party movement and Occupy Wall Street protest against income inequality — are helping to shape campaign ideologies and stump speeches. An unusually large field of Republican candidates, including multimillionaire Mormon Mitt Romney and thrice-married Newt Gingrich, have fought each other as aggressively as they have Obama, leaving the GOP so fractured that some think a nominee won't emerge until the party convention in August. Meanwhile, following a controversial Supreme Court ruling on campaign finance, wealthy donors are pouring millions of dollars into TV attack ads through so-called SuperPACs. And overshadowing the entire spectacle is the shaky U.S. economy and the question of which candidate is best equipped to turn it around.” READ MORE
Obama, Explained. James Fallows, The Atlantic, March 2012, var. pp. “As Barack Obama contends for a second term in office, two conflicting narratives of his presidency have emerged. Is he a skillful political player and policy visionary—a chess master who always sees several moves ahead of his opponents (and of the punditocracy)? Or is he politically clumsy and out of his depth—a pawn overwhelmed by events, at the mercy of a second-rate staff and of the Republicans? Here, a longtime analyst of the presidency takes the measure of our 44th president, with a view to history.”
Election 2012: An Unusually Clear Policy Choice.Jay Cost, Policy Review, December 2011, var. pages."The presidential election of 2012 is shaping up to be an epic contest. It is uncommon for an incumbent president to be considered an underdog, yet as of this writing President Barack Obama’s odds of winning reelection, according to the Intrade prediction market, stand at less than 50 percent. An endangered incumbent always makes for a fascinating political dynamic, one that will be compounded by the enormously high stakes of the upcoming battle. With the unemployment rate stuck at near nine percent and the Democrats’ new health entitlement set to go into effect relatively soon, the winner of 2012 will have unusual power to set American domestic policy for the rest of the decade." READ MORE
The Age Of Volatility. Ronald Brownstein, The National Journal, Updated: October 27, 2011, var. pp. "Over the past decade, neither political party has been able to sustain any more than a momentary advantage. Will 2012 be any different? As the 2012 election approaches, Washington is bracing for an earthquake. Again. As opinion polls show near-record dissatisfaction with the nation’s direction, towering disillusionment with both parties and all major political institutions, and pervasive gloom over the economy’s prospects, conditions are gathering for a fourth consecutive election that could rattle Washington to its foundation. That volatility is a defining characteristic of our political era. Viewed from one angle, the political instability stretches back to 1968, when voters, breaking the typical pattern of the previous seven decades, started to routinely deny either party unified control of Congress and the White House. More immediately, another tumultuous election in 2012 would continue an even bumpier recent cycle in which an anxious and agitated electorate has careened from the GOP in 2002 and 2004 toward the Democrats in 2006 and 2008 before snapping back toward Republicans in 2010." READ MORE