Political Behavior

, Volume 26, Issue 4, pp 343–375 | Cite as

Registrants, Voters, and Turnout Variability Across Neighborhoods

  • James G. GimpelEmail author
  • Joshua J. Dyck
  • Daron R. Shaw


Although political participation has received wide-ranging scholarly attention, little is known for certain about the effects of social and political context on turnout. A scattered set of analyses—well-known by both political scientists and campaign consultants—suggests that one’s neighborhood has a relatively minor impact on the decision to vote. These analyses, however, typically rely upon data from a single location. Drawing on official lists of registered voters from sixteen major counties across seven states (including Florida) from the 2000 presidential election, we use geographic/mapping information and hierarchical models to obtain a more accurate picture of how neighborhood characteristics affect participation, especially among partisans. Our research shows that neighborhoods influence voting by interacting with partisan affiliation to dampen turnout among voters we might otherwise expect to participate. Most notably, we find Republican partisans in enemy territory tend to vote less than expected, even after accounting for socioeconomic status. Our findings have implications for campaign strategy, and lead us to suggest that campaign targeting efforts could be improved by an integration of aggregate- and individual-level information about voters.


voting voter turnout political participation context effects presidential elections partisanship hierarchical generalized linear models mixed models 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams, William C., Smith, Dennis J. 1980Effects of telephone canvassing on turnout and Preferences: a field experimentPublic Opinion Quarterly44389395Google Scholar
  2. Brady, BaybeckMcClurg, Scott D eds. 2004What do they know and how do they know it? An examination of citizen awareness of contextUniversity of MissouriSt. LouisUnpublished msGoogle Scholar
  3. Beck, Paul Allen, Dalton, Russell J., Greene, Steven, Huckfeldt, Robert 2002The social calculus of voting: interpersonal, media and organizational influences on presidential choicesAmerican Political Science Review967590Google Scholar
  4. Berelson, Bernard R., Lazarsfeld, Paul F., McPhee, William N. 1954Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential CampaignUniversity of Chicago PressChicagoGoogle Scholar
  5. Bobo, Lawrence, Gilliam, Franklin D.,Jr. 1990Race, sociopolitical participation and black empowermentAmerican Political Science Review84377393Google Scholar
  6. Bullock, Charles S.,III, Shafer, David J. 1997Party targeting and electoral successLegislative Studies Quarterly22573584Google Scholar
  7. Campbell, Angus 1960Surge and Decline: a study of electoral change.Public Opinion Quarterly24397418Google Scholar
  8. Campbell, Angus, Converse, Phillip E., Miller, Warren E., Stokes, Donald E. 1960The American VoterJohn Wiley and SonsNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  9. Campbell, James E. 1993Congressional Elections: The Presidential PulseThe University Press of KentuckyLexingtonGoogle Scholar
  10. Citrin, Jack, Shickler, Eric, Sides, John 2003What if everyone voted?Simulating the impact of increased turnout in senate elections.American Journal of Political Science477590Google Scholar
  11. Cohen, Cathy, Dawson, Michael 1993Neighborhood poverty and African American politicsAmerican Political Science Review87286302Google Scholar
  12. DeNardo, James 1980Turnout and the vote: The Joke’s on the democrats.American Political Science Review74406420Google Scholar
  13. DeNardo, James 1986Does Heavy turnout help democrats in presidential elections?American Political Science Review8012981304Google Scholar
  14. Eulau, Heniz, Rothenburg, Lawrence 1986Life space and social networks as political contexts.Political Behavior8130157Google Scholar
  15. Finifter, Ada 1974The friendship group as a protective environment for political deviants.American Political Science Review68607625Google Scholar
  16. Freedman, Paul, Goldstein, Kenneth M. 1999Measuring media exposure and the effects of negative campaign adsAmerican journal of political Science4311891208Google Scholar
  17. Goldstein, Kenneth M., Freedman, Paul 2002Campaign advertising and voter turnout: new evidence for a stimulation effect.Journal of Politics64721740Google Scholar
  18. Gerber, Alan S., Green, Donald P. 2000aThe effect of a nonpartisan get-out-the-vote drive: an experimental study of leaflettingJournal of Politics62846857Google Scholar
  19. Gerber, Alan S., Green, Donald P. 2000bThe effects of canvassing, direct mail and telephone contact on voter turnout: A field experimentAmerican Political Science Review94653663Google Scholar
  20. Gerber, Alan S., Green, Donald P. 2001Do phone calls increase voter turnoutA field experiment. Public Opinion Quarterly657585Google Scholar
  21. Gerber, Alan S., Green, Donald P., Shachar, Ron 2003Voting may be habit forming: evidence from a randomized field experiment.American Journal of Political Science47540580Google Scholar
  22. Michael, Gilles, Dantico, Marilyn K. 1982Political participation and neighborhood Social Context RevisitedAmerican Journal of Political Science26144150Google Scholar
  23. Gimpel, James G. 1999Separate Destinations: Migration, Immigration and the Politics of PlacesUniversity of Michigan PressAnn ArborGoogle Scholar
  24. Gimpel, James G., Schuknecht, Jason E. 2001Interstate migration and electoral politicsJournal of Politics63207231Google Scholar
  25. Gimpel, James G., Lay, J. Celeste, Schuknecht, Jason E. 2003Cultivating Democracy: Civic Environments and Political Socialization in America.Brookings Institution PressWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  26. Green, Donald P., Gerber, Alan S., Nickerson, David W. 2003Getting out the vote in local elections: results from six door-to-door canvassing experimentsJournal of Politics6510831096Google Scholar
  27. Green, Donald P., Smith, Jennifer K. 2003Professionalization of campaigns and the secret history of collective action problemsJournal of Theoretical Politics15321339Google Scholar
  28. Herrnson, Paul S. 2004Congressional Elections, 5th edn.Congressional Quarterly PressWashington, D.C.Google Scholar
  29. Highton, Benjamin 1997Easy registration and voter turnout.Journal of Politics59565575Google Scholar
  30. Highton, Benjamin, Wolfinger, Raymond 2001The first seven years of the political lifecycle.American Journal of Political Science45202209Google Scholar
  31. Huckfeldt, R. Robert 1979Political participation and the neighborhood social context.American Journal of Political Science23579592Google Scholar
  32. Huckfeldt, R. Robert 1986Politics in Context: Assimilation and Conflict in Urban NeighborhoodsAgathonNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  33. Huckfeldt, Robert, Plutzer, Eric, Sprague, John 1993Alternative contexts of political behavior: churches, neighborhoods and individuals.Journal of Politics55365381Google Scholar
  34. Huckfeldt, Robert, Sprague, John 1987Networks in context: The social flow of political information.American Political Science Review8111971216Google Scholar
  35. Huckfeldt, Robert, Sprague, John 1995Citizens, Politics and Social CommunicationCambridge University PressNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  36. Humphries, Stan 2001Who’s afraid of the big, bad firm: The impact of economic scale on political participation.American Journal of Political Science45678699Google Scholar
  37. Imai, Kosuke (2004). Do get-out-the vote calls reduce turnout? The importance of statistical methods for field experiments. American Political Science Review (forthcoming).Google Scholar
  38. Iyengar, Shanto 1980Subjective political efficacy as a measure of diffuse support.Public Opinion Quarterly44249256Google Scholar
  39. Jackson, Robert A. 1996The mobilization of congressional electoratesLegislative Studies Quarterly21425445Google Scholar
  40. Johnston, Ron, Jones, Kelvyn, Sarker, Rebecca, Propper, Carol, Burgess, Simon, Bolster, Anne 2004Party support and the neighborhood effect: spatial polarisation of the British Electorate, 1991–2001.Political Geography23367402Google Scholar
  41. Joslyn, Mark R. 1997The public nature of personal opinion: The impact of collective sentiment on individual appraisalPolitical Behavior19337363Google Scholar
  42. Kenny, Christopher B. 1992Political participation and effects from the social environmentAmerican Journal of Political Science36259267Google Scholar
  43. Krassa, Michael A. 1988Context and the canvass: the mechanisms of interactionPolitical Behavior10233246Google Scholar
  44. Lazarsfeld, Paul F., Berelson, Bernard R., Gaudet, Hazel 1944The People’s ChoiceDuell, Sloan and PearceNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  45. Lee, Valerie, Bryk, Anthony S. 1989A multilevel model of the social distribution of high school achievementSociology of Education63172192Google Scholar
  46. Leighley, Jan E. 1995Attitudes, opportunities and incentives: a field essay on political participationPolitical Research Quarterly48181209Google Scholar
  47. Malchow, Hal 2003The New Political Targeting.Campaigns & Elections MagazineWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  48. Mutz, Diana 2002The consequences of cross-cutting networks for political participation.American Journal of Political Science46838855Google Scholar
  49. Noelle-Neumann, Elisabeth 1993The Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion–Our Social SkinUniversity of Chicago PressChicagoGoogle Scholar
  50. Plutzer, Eric 2002Becoming a habitual voter: inertia, resources and growth in young adulthood.American Political Science Review964156Google Scholar
  51. Powell, G. Bingham 1986American voter turnout in comparative perspectiveAmerican Political Science Review801743Google Scholar
  52. Raudenbush, Stephen W., and Bhumirat, Chinnapat (1992). The distribution of resources for primary education and its consequences for education achievement in Thailand. International Journal of Educational Research 143–164.Google Scholar
  53. Raudenbush, Stephen W., Bryk, Anthony S. 1986A hierarchical model for studying school effectsSociology of Education59117Google Scholar
  54. Raudenbush, Stephen W., Bryk, Anthony S. 2002Hierarchical Linear Models: Applications and Data Analysis MethodsSageThousand Oaks, CAGoogle Scholar
  55. Rolfe Meredith (2004). Taking social structure seriously: education and voter turnout. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago, IL, April 14–16.Google Scholar
  56. Rosenstone, Steven J., Hansen, John Mark 1993Mobilization, Participation and Democracy in AmericaMacmillanNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  57. Salmore, Barbara G., Salmore, Stephen A. 1989Candidates, Parties, and Campaigns: Electoral Politics in America, 2nd ednCongressional Quarterly PressWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  58. Sapiro, Virginia, Conover, Pamela Johnston 1997The variable gender bias of electoral politics: Gender and Context in the 1992 U.S. ElectionBritish Journal of Political Science27497523Google Scholar
  59. Schlozman, Kay Lehman, Burns, Nancy, Verba, Sidney 1994Gender and the pathways to participation: the role of resourcesJournal of Politics56963990Google Scholar
  60. Shaw, Catherine M., Holstein, Michael E. 1999The Campaign Manager: Running and Winning Local Elections, 2nd ednWestview PressBoulderGoogle Scholar
  61. Shaw, Daron R., de la Garza, Rodolfo, Lee, Jongho 2000Estimating latino turnout in 1996: a three-State, validated survey approach.American Journal of Political Science44338346Google Scholar
  62. Shea, Daniel M., Burton, John 2001Campaign Craft: The Strategies, Tactics and Art of Political Campaign Management.PraegerWestport, CTGoogle Scholar
  63. Simpson, Dick. 1996Winning Elections: A Handbook of Modern Participatory PoliticsHarperCollinsNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  64. Squire, Pervill, Wolfinger, Raymond E., Glass, David P. 1987Residential mobility and voter turnoutAmerican Political Science Review814565Google Scholar
  65. Straits, Bruce C. 1990The social context of voter turnoutPublic Opinion Quarterly546473Google Scholar
  66. Steenbergen, Marco R., Jones, Bradford S. 2002Modeling multilevel data structuresAmerican Journal of Political Science46218237Google Scholar
  67. Stoker, Laura, Jennings, M. Kent 1995Life-cycle transitions and political participation: the case of marriageThe American Political Science Review89421433Google Scholar
  68. Timpone, Richard J. 1998Structure, behavior and vote turnout in the United StatesAmerican Political Science Review92145158Google Scholar
  69. Traugott, Michael W., Goldenberg, Edie N. 1984Campaigning for Congress.Congressional QuarterlyWashington, DCGoogle Scholar
  70. Verba, Sidney, Norman, Nie H. 1972Participation in America: Political Democracy and, Social EqualtyHarper & RowNew YorkGoogle Scholar
  71. Verba, Sidney, Burns, Nancy, Schlozman, Kay Lehman 1997Knowing and caring about politics: gender and political engagementJournal of Politics5910511072Google Scholar
  72. Wielhouwer, Peter W. 2003In search of Lincoln’s perfect list: targeting in grassroots campaignsAmerican Politics Research31632669Google Scholar
  73. Weissberg, Robert 1975Political efficacy and political illusionJournal of Politics37469487Google Scholar
  74. Wolfinger, Raymond E., Steven, J. Rosentone 1980Who Votes?Yale University PressNew HavenGoogle Scholar
  75. Zipp, John F., Smith, Joel 1979The structure of electoral political participationAmerican Journal of Sociology85167177Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • James G. Gimpel
    • 1
    Email author
  • Joshua J. Dyck
    • 2
  • Daron R. Shaw
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of GovernmentUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.University of MarylandUSA
  3. 3.University of TexasAustinUSA

Personalised recommendations