Political Behavior

, Volume 32, Issue 2, pp 285–301 | Cite as

Does Economic Inequality Depress Electoral Participation? Testing the Schattschneider Hypothesis

  • Frederick SoltEmail author
Original Paper


Nearly a half-century ago, E.E. Schattschneider wrote that the high abstention and large differences between the rates of electoral participation of richer and poorer citizens found in the United States were caused by high levels of economic inequality. Despite increasing inequality and stagnant or declining voting rates since then, Schattschneider’s hypothesis remains largely untested. This article takes advantage of the variation in inequality across states and over time to remedy this oversight. Using a multilevel analysis that combines aspects of state context with individual survey responses in 144 gubernatorial elections, it finds that citizens of states with greater income inequality are less likely to vote and that income inequality increases income bias in the electorate, lending empirical support to Schattschneider’s argument.


Electoral participation Economic inequality Income bias Gubernatorial elections 



I am grateful to Stephen Bloom, Gina Branton, Tobin Grant, Evelyne Huber, Patrick Kenney, Melissa Marschall, Scott McClurg, Celeste Montoya, Peter Nardulli, Marco Steenbergen, and the editors and reviewers for their helpful comments on earlier versions of this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Southern Illinois UniversityCarbondaleUSA

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