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Voter Turnout Among College Students: New Data and a Rethinking of Traditional Theories

Richard G. Niemi and Michael J. Hanmer
Social Science Quarterly
Vol. 91, No. 2 (JUNE 2010), pp. 301-323
Published by: Wiley
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/42956403
Page Count: 23
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Voter Turnout Among College Students: New Data and a Rethinking of Traditional Theories
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Abstract

Objectives. Traditional theories of turnout are of limited applicability to college students: the concepts and measures associated with these theories were not designed with students in mind, and factors not considered by the traditional theories are relevant. We offer a new theoretical perspective for understanding college student turnout and test it using a new data set. Methods. We conducted a phone survey of college students following the November 2004 U.S. presidential election. We test our theoretical expectations using descriptive statistics and logistic regression models. Results. We find that the usual demographic factors are of little relevance. Turnout is, however, related to the same motivational factors that stimulate older voters, as well as to mobilization by parties. College-specific factors, such as distance between home and college, are also relevant. Turnout was also higher for students whose hometown or college town was in a battleground state. Conclusion. The results suggest new approaches to the study of young people and how and when they become part of the voting public.

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