When you have to pick a candidate for whom to vote, do you vote as a prospective or retrospective voter? Explain why. 

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

First off, this is a question about how you as an individual think about voting. There is no right or wrong answer here, as it is an opportunity to reflect on what matters to you as an individual. As an eNotes educator, I cannot know your individual political opinions, and thus this answer will guide you through the process of how to answer the question based on your own opinions.

A "retrospective voter" is one who focuses on the past performance of an incumbent or the incumbent's party. If the voter is generally satisfied with the incumbent's performance, she will vote for the incumbent and otherwise she will vote against the incumbent. Especially in a two-party system, this means that if things are going well for you and your immediate community, or if you feel the country or region is moving in the right direction, you will vote for an incumbent, while if you feel unhappy with the current state of affairs, you will vote for an opposing (or even protest) candidate. A "prospective voter" looks forward to which candidate she thinks will do a better job in the future, irrespective of satisfaction with the current state of affairs. Prospective voters consider the candidates' stances on various issues when voting.

Personally, I think that prospective voting is the better choice. Many things happen in one's own life or community that are outside the control of individual politicians. For example, jobs becoming technologically obsolete or moving to countries with lower costs of production can devastate a local community or individual families. However, the causes of this are technological improvements and the ensuing improvements in logistics and supply chains, something far beyond the control of your local congressperson or even president. As a prospective voter, instead of trying to blame politicians for things they cannot control, it makes more sense to ask how they will address the issue of towns and workers affected by these issues, ensuring that health care, retraining, and other forms of support are available to them and developing innovative ways to support communities negatively impacted by economic and technological change.