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Getting Out the Vote: Participation in Gubernatorial Elections

Samuel C. Patterson and Gregory A. Caldeira
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 77, No. 3 (Sep., 1983), pp. 675-689
DOI: 10.2307/1957267
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1957267
Page Count: 15
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Getting Out the Vote: Participation in Gubernatorial Elections
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Abstract

Scholarship on electoral turnout has long emphasized two main themes: explanations of nonvoting in terms of individual characteristics and in terms of contextual variables. These investigations have deeply enriched our understanding of electoral participation, but their limitations have also sensitized us to the remaining problems of explanation. Perusal of the work on American politics exposes a rather striking tendency in studies of participation to ignore, or soft pedal, the effects of active political mobilization. In this article we formulate two models of electoral turnout--socioeconomic and political mobilization--and apply them to aggregate data on voting in gubernatorial elections of 1978 and 1980. The socioeconomic model of turnout includes such influences as income, age, and educational attainment. To assess the effects of political mobilization, we have considered campaign spending, partisan competition, electoral margin, and the presence or absence of a simultaneous race for the United States Senate. Both of the models perform quite well individually, producing significant and meaningful coefficients and adequate fits. Yet in the final analysis we demonstrate that quite apart from major sources of variation in gubernatorial turnout--such as region and presidential versus nonpresidential years--the mobilizing influences of campaign activism and competitiveness have a strong impact on electoral participation; electoral law, i.e., closing date of registration, retains a small but significant effect on voting for governor; and socioeconomic characteristics, include in a fully specified model, have little to contribute independently to an explanation of electoral turnout. These findings are very much in the same vein as related cross-national investigations which emphasize the crucial role of electoral law and political parties and downplay individual characteristics as determinants of electoral participation. On the basis of the research reported here, we argue that scholars need to pay more attention to political mobilization as an explanation of electoral turnout.

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