Vote Early and Often

Kevin Lewis

October 20, 2009

Political Socialization in Context: The Effect of Political Competition on Youth Voter Turnout

Julianna Sandell Pacheco
Political Behavior, December 2008, Pages 415-436

Adolescence is an important time for political development. Researchers have concentrated on the family as the sole socializing agent of youths; however, as Campbell, Gimpel, and others have shown, political contexts also matter for young citizens. Using the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, the Record of American Democracy, and election outcomes data, I find that adolescents who resided in politically competitive locales or states have higher turnout years later compared to those who lived in uncompetitive contexts. These effects are not mediated by the home political environment and act through political socialization. This research adds to a growing literature on the influence of political contexts on political behavior and is the first to explore how political competition during adolescence influences voter turnout in young adulthood.


Driving Saints to Sin: How Increasing the Difficulty of Voting Dissuades Even the Most Motivated Voters

John McNulty, Conor Dowling & Margaret Ariotti
Political Analysis, Autumn 2009, Pages 435-455

The consolidation of polling places in the Vestal Central School District in New York State during the district's 2006 budget referendum provides a naturalistic setting to study the effects of polling consolidation on voter turnout on an electorate quite distinct from previous work by Brady and McNulty (2004, The costs of voting: Evidence from a natural experiment. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Political Methodology, Palo Alto, CA). In particular, voters in local elections are highly motivated and therefore might be thought to be less affected by poll consolidation. Nevertheless, through a matching analysis we find that polling consolidation decreases voter turnout substantially, by about seven percentage points, even among this electorate, suggesting that even habitual voters can be dissuaded from going to the polls. This finding has implications for how election administrators ought to handle cost-cutting measures like consolidation.


Party, Performance, and Strategic Politicians: The Dynamics of Elections for Senator and Governor in 2006

Adam Brown & Gary Jacobson
State Politics & Policy Quarterly, Winter 2008, Pages 384-409

In this article, we analyze a unique set of state-level monthly survey data covering the eighteen months preceding the 2006 election to estimate (1) the relative effects of national and local conditions on the strength of challenges to incumbent senators and governors and (2) the effects of these challenges on incumbent popularity and, ultimately, vote shares. The analysis confirms several of the basic components of the theory that the strategic behavior of candidates and campaign contributors amplifies the effects of local and national conditions on election results, thereby enhancing electoral accountability. But it also uncovers a striking difference between the two offices. Even taking the strongly pro-Democratic national climate into account, the election context had a strong tendency to reduce the approval ratings of Senators, while it had an equally strong tendency to increase the approval ratings of governors. We speculate as to what might account for this difference.


The Effect of Public Financing on the Competitiveness of Elections

Thomas Stratmann
GMU Working Paper, May 2009

This paper analyzes the effect of public financing on the competitiveness on elections. It shows that states with public financing have more competitive elections in state assembly races than states without. The paper also analyzes the fortunes of those candidates for the Maine House of Representatives who accept public financing in Maine. The results from this analysis show that accepting public financing increases incumbents' vote share by 2 percentage points and challengers' vote share by 3 percentage points.


Closeness, Expenditures, and Turnout in the 2000 Presidential Election

Seth McKee
Journal of Political Marketing, June 2008, Pages 69-91

In this article I examine whether turnout in the 2000 presidential election was influenced by closeness and candidate expenditures. Evidence that closeness affects turnout supports the theory that voters assign more weight to their votes in close elections. Evidence that expenditures increase turnout provides support for the argument that greater mobilization efforts increase turnout in close elections. I test the effect of closeness and expenditures separately and jointly in state- and individual-level multivariate analyses. It is found that closeness affects turnout in the state- and individual-level models when expenditures are omitted. When expenditures are included in the analyses, closeness is rendered insignificant or takes on an unanticipated sign. Although the influence of closeness on turnout is uncertain and variable, expenditure allocation is related to closeness, and in all the analyses, expenditures, measured as presidential advertising and presidential visits, positively impacted turnout in the 2000 election.


Reducing the Costs of Participation: Are States Getting a Return on Early Voting?

Joseph Giammo & Brian Brox
Political Research Quarterly, forthcoming

The authors address the puzzle of why governments have implemented methods of early voting when those methods appear not to have an effect on turnout. Using an aggregate analysis, the authors find that early voting seems to produce a short-lived increase in turnout that disappears by the second presidential election in which it is available. They also address whether the additional costs to government are worth the negligible increase in participation. They conclude that these reforms merely offer additional convenience for those already likely to vote.


The Puzzle of Weak Pocketbook Voting

Robert Grafstein
Journal of Theoretical Politics, October 2009, Pages 451-482

This article investigates why predominantly self-interested voters exhibit weak pocketbook voting. Focusing on the USA, it estimates partisan government's impact on household income and, based on the Permanent Income Hypothesis, models the conversion of that income into consumption, the source of voters' utility in the model. The analysis implies that pocketbook voting is weak because anticipated policy is already incorporated in household consumption plans. Sociotropic variables are more powerful because they determine the relative value of partisan policies in the longer term. Using PSID data, estimates of the US parties' impact on income generate a measure of partisan utility differences. This measure enters into a probit analysis using 1952-2000 ANES presidential election data. The pocketbook measure performs as predicted both independently and in relation to sociotropic variables.


Keeping Up with the Joneses: The Interplay of Personal and Collective Evaluations in Voter Turnout

Mitchell Killian, Ryan Schoen & Aaron Dusso
Political Behavior, September 2008, Pages 323-340

Do citizens turnout to vote because of changes in their personal financial situation or are they influenced by the nation's economic performance? Previous research on this question is far from united. We attempt to unify the disparate literature on the effects of pocketbook and sociotropic evaluations on voter turnout in midterm and presidential elections. Our analysis of ANES data from 1978 to 2004, based on a reference-dependent model of voter turnout, indicates that both pocketbook and sociotropic considerations affect individuals' decision of whether to vote in midterm elections. Those who perceive that over the last year their own financial situation has improved relative to the economy are less likely to vote than those who view the economy as outperforming their own financial situation.

The Effects of Early Voting on Congressional Campaign Expenditures: 1980-2004

Robert Stein
Rice University Working Paper, August 2009

By increasing the number of days voters are able to vote, candidates in states with early voting are forced to spend more on voter mobilization activities. The expectation is that campaign spending will rise in states with early voting, ceteris paribus. We study the effects of early voting on campaign spending in elections to the U.S. House of Representatives for the period 1984-2006. House races provide a modicum of control for the variety of factors that impact campaign expenditures across the 50 states. Controlling for other determinants of congressional campaign spending, we observe significantly higher congressional spending per vote cast in states with early voting.


Do Community-Based Voter Mobilization Campaigns Work Even in Battleground States? Evaluating the Effectiveness Of MoveOn's 2004 Outreach Campaign

Joel Middleton & Donald Green
Quarterly Journal of Political Science, March 2008, Pages 63-82

One of the hallmarks of the 2004 presidential election was the unusual emphasis on face-to-face voter mobilization, particularly face-to-face mobilization conducted within neighborhoods or social networks. Unlike previous studies of face-to-face voter mobilization, which have focused largely on nonpartisan campaigns conducted during midterm or local elections, this study assesses the effects of a campaign organized by, an organization that allied itself with the Democratic Party in 2004 to aid presidential candidate John Kerry. A regression discontinuity analysis of 46,277 voters from 13 swing states demonstrates that neighbor-to-neighbor mobilization substantially increased turnout among target voters during the 2004 presidential election. Contact with MoveOn volunteers increased turnout by approximately nine percentage-points. This finding corroborates experimental findings showing the effectiveness of door-to-door canvassing but contradicts results suggesting that such mobilization is ineffective in the context of high-salience elections.


Voter responses to challenger opportunity costs

Sanford Clark Gordon, Gregory Alain Huber & Dimitri Landa
Electoral Studies, March 2009, Pages 79-93

How do voters evaluate candidates in competitive elections? Gordon et al. [Gordon, S.C., Huber, G.A., Landa, D., 2007. Challenger entry and voter learning. American Political Science Review 101 (May), pp. 303-320.] present a model in which the fact of a serious electoral challenge conveys information about the relative competence of the candidates, over and above that conveyed by observable measures of candidate quality. The model predicts differences in voters' responses to candidates depending on challenger opportunity costs. Taken together, these predictions diverge from those associated with an alternative theoretical account. We take advantage of the variation in challenger opportunity costs afforded by state legislative term limits to evaluate the model's predictions. State legislators frequently challenge sitting members of the U.S. House. Those who are term-limited have less to lose from running, whereas those who are not must often risk their current position in pursuit of higher office. Using data on voter attitudes and knowledge about House elections involving state legislators, we find compelling evidence that voters respond to variation in challenger opportunity costs in a manner consistent with the model's predictions.


Non-voted ballots, the cost of voting, and race

John Lott
Public Choice, January 2009, Pages 171-197

The enormous controversy over Florida's 2000 presidential election focused everyone's attention on ballots with no recorded vote in presidential races, but non-voting generally becomes greater farther down the ballot and the drop-off rate varies by type of machine. Ward-level data for the 1992, 1996 and 2000 elections in Ohio demonstrate that only looking at races at the top of the ballot is misleading. The rush to eliminate punch card ballots actually increases the number of non-votes for other offices than it reduces them for the presidential election at the top. Differential impacts of voting machines by race, gender, and age are also examined.


Con Job: An Estimate of Ex-Felon Voter Turnout Using Document-Based Data

Michael Haselswerdt
Social Science Quarterly, June 2009, Pages 262-273

Objective: Ex-felon voter turnout was estimated for the first time using government records rather than statistical models. Statistical models have estimated that 25-35 percent of eligible ex-felons would vote in federal elections.

Methods: Six-hundred-sixty recently released ex-felons in Erie County, NY, who would have been legally eligible to register and vote in 2004 or 2005, were compared with data from the Erie County Board of Elections to determine whether they registered and voted in either 2004 or 2005.

Results: Five percent of this population of ex-felons voted in either 2004 or 2005.

Conclusions: Single-digit turnout among ex-felons raises questions about the assumptions underlying statistical estimates, and it also suggests that elections would have to be very close for ex-felons to have an impact on the results.


Electoral Selection, Strategic Challenger Entry, and the Incumbency Advantage

Scott Ashworth & Ethan Bueno de Mesquita
Journal of Politics, October 2008, Pages 1006-1025

We study the comparative statics of the incumbency advantage in a model of electoral selection and strategic challenger entry. The incumbency advantage arises in the model because, on average, incumbents have greater ability than challengers. This is true for two reasons: high-ability candidates are more likely to win election (electoral selection) and high-quality incumbents deter challengers (strategic challenger entry). We show that this quality-based incumbency advantage is expected to be greater for high visibility offices, in polities with relatively small partisan tides, in unpolarized electoral environments, and in electorates that are relatively balanced in their partisan preferences.


Reconsidering Explanations for Regional Convergence in Voter Registration and Turnout in the United States, 1956-2000

Andrew Fullerton & Casey Borch
Sociological Forum, December 2008, Pages 755-785

In the United States, voter turnout rates have been declining for the last 4 decades; however, this pattern differs substantially by region. Southern states have actually seen a fairly dramatic increase in turnout since the 1950s and currently the South and non-South have almost identical rates of voter registration and turnout. Using a series of Heckman probit models, which examine voting as a two-step process of registering and casting a vote, we systematically investigate differences in rates of registering and voting across regions and test explanations for regional convergence over time. Using data from the American National Election Studies (1956-2000), we find that regional convergence in voter registration is primarily due to the removal of formal and informal barriers to registration and voting in the South and declining efforts to mobilize potential voters in the non-South. In addition, we find some fairly distinct differences in which predictors are important to each stage of the voting process; for example, race is a better predictor of registering to vote than voting. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of these results.

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