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Who Votes?

Who Votes?

RAYMOND E. WOLFINGER
STEVEN J. ROSENSTONE
Copyright Date: 1980
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 160
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt32bffz
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  • Book Info
    Who Votes?
    Book Description:

    Elections are at the heart of the American political system, but in 1976 only 54 percent of the voting age population went to the polls. The question of who votes matters greatly to everyone involved in politics and to all those concerned about the current and future state of American democracy. Based on data from the 1972 and 1974 Census Bureau surveys, Wolfinger and Rosenstone are able to identify for the first time those social and economic groups that are most likely to vote and to explain sensibly and convincingly those factors that influence voter turnout.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-16184-7
    Subjects: Political Science, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1: INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-12)

    Elections are at the core of the American political system. They are the way we choose government leaders, a source of the government’s legitimacy, and a means by which citizens try to influence public policy. And for most Americans, voting is the only form of political participation.

    Since the turn of the century, voter turnout in America has lagged far behind the voting rates in other democratic countries. Scholars, journalists, and politicians have expressed concern over the failure of so many Americans to vote. This concern has increased with the decline in voter participation since 1960. While 62.8 percent of...

  5. 2: SORTING OUT THE EFFECTS OF SOCIOECONOMIC STATUS
    (pp. 13-36)

    Probably the best-known finding about turnout is that “citizens of higher social and economic status participate more in politics. This generalization … holds true whether one uses level of education, income, or occupation as the measure of social status” (Verba and Nie 1972, p. 125). This statement is as well documented as it is familiar. College graduates vote more than high school graduates; white-collar workers vote more than blue-collar workers; and the rich vote more than the poor.

    These three demographic characteristics are related to each other. People with more schooling have better jobs and make more money and so...

  6. 3: AGE AND SEX
    (pp. 37-60)

    The conventional view is that turnout is lowest at the beginning of adult life, rises to a plateau in middle age, and declines as maturity fades into old age (Lipset 1960, p. 189; Flanigan and Zingale 1975, pp. 25–27; Milbrath and Goel 1977, p. 114). In 1972 this pattern held, as figure 3.1 shows.¹ The favorite explanation for declining turnout among the elderly is summarized by Milbrath and Goel: “In the twilight years, physical infirmities probably account for a modest decline in participation” (1977, p. 116). Detailed analysis leads us to question the importance of physical limitations as an...

  7. 4: THE EFFECT OF REGISTRATION LAWS ON TURNOUT
    (pp. 61-88)

    Most Americans, in order to vote, must first establish their eligibility by registering prior to election day.¹ Any time someone moves, he must usually re-register at his new address. Registration raises the costs of voting. Citizens must first perform a separate task that lacks the immediate gratification characterizing other forms of political expression (such as voting). Registration is usually more difficult than voting, often involving more obscure information and a longer journey at a less convenient time, to complete a more complicated procedure. Moreover, it must usually be done before interest in the campaign has reached its peak. Converse and...

  8. 5: POLITICAL STAKES AND POLITICAL CULTURE
    (pp. 89-101)

    To this point we have assumed that the citizen’s political involvement is invariably avocational and that the individual benefits of the voting act are purely symbolic: a sense of citizen duty fulfilled or a political preference or group loyalty expressed. These assumptions are not valid for many people who work for the government and deal with the subject matter of politics on the job. Moreover, some government employees have very concrete motivations for going to the polls: if they fail to vote, they may lose their jobs, damage their chances of promotion, or incur the disfavor of their superiors. If...

  9. 6: SOME IMPLICATIONS
    (pp. 102-114)

    Our main task in this chapter will be to explore the political implications of variations in turnout by comparing voters to the entire adult population. Before doing this, let us summarize our conclusions.

    The core finding is the transcendent importance of education. From this we have developed our fundamental proposition: the personal qualities that raise the probability of voting are the skills that make learning about politics easier and more gratifying and reduce the difficulties of voting. Education increases one’s capacity for understanding complex and intangible subjects such as politics, as well as encouraging the ethic of civic responsibility. Moreover,...

  10. Appendixes
    (pp. 115-130)
  11. NOTES
    (pp. 131-142)
  12. REFERENCES
    (pp. 143-150)
  13. INDEX
    (pp. 151-158)