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

Andrew S. Fullerton and Casey Borch
Sociological Forum
Vol. 23, No. 4 (Dec., 2008), pp. 755-785
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/40210389
Page Count: 31
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Reconsidering Explanations for Regional Convergence in Voter Registration and Turnout in the United States, 1956-2000
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Abstract

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 eurrently 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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