PS: Political Science & Politics
The research on voter turnout in America is impressive in quantity and quality, but it lacks breadth. National and state elections have received most of the attention, while the myriad of other elections, from municipal contests to policy referenda, have often been ignored. As a result, we know a great deal about turnout in state and national elections, and much less about turnout in other races. The temptation is to generalize the state and national conclusions to other elections, but this is risky. For example, in a recent aggregate-level study of small town elections in Iowa, Rice and Schlueter (2004) report a relationship that runs contrary to virtually all of the state and national literature: education and turnout are negatively correlated; that is, the citizens in better-educated communities vote in local elections at lower rates than the citizens in less-educated communities. This finding exposes the limitations in our understanding of voter turnout. If all we want is to speak with assurance about turnout in state and national elections, then the current literature is very helpful. If, however, we want to be able to speak more generally about turnout (and speak more specifically about turnout in elections other than state and national contests), then we need to study more types of elections.
Published Article/Book Citation
PS: Political Science & Politics, 38:4 (2005) pp. 723-729. DOI: 10.1017/S1049096505050201
Copyright 2005 American Political Science Association. Used by permission. http://journals.cambridge.org/action/displayJournal?jid=PSC