Why is American Turnout so Low, and Why Should We Care?

Michael D. Martinez

in The Oxford Handbook of American Elections and Political Behavior

Published in print February 2010 | ISBN: 9780199235476
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks of American Politics

 Why is American Turnout so Low, and Why Should We Care?

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The vast literature on voter turnout in the United States addresses a variety of theoretical perspectives with a range of methodological tools, but students often return to three basic questions: Why is American voter turnout so low? Why is American voter turnout declining? And does low turnout really matter? This article specifically deals with these questions. It also explores American voter participation with both comparative and longitudinal perspectives. In addition to the changes in the social and partisan landscapes, changes in mobilization patterns also accounted for a portion of the change in turnout. It shows the conflicting incentives felt by elites, who shape the environment in which Americans vote. Election officials and candidates may value higher voter turnout in the abstract, but not to the exclusion of other political concerns and motivations.

Keywords: American voter turnout; United States; Americans vote; American voter participation; election officials; candidates

Article.  8004 words. 

Subjects: Politics ; US Politics ; Political Behaviour

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