Political Behavior

, Volume 33, Issue 4, pp 535–563 | Cite as

Turnout as a Habit

  • John H. Aldrich
  • Jacob M. MontgomeryEmail author
  • Wendy Wood
Original Paper


It is conventional to speak of voting as “habitual.” But what does this mean? In psychology, habits are cognitive associations between repeated responses and stable features of the performance context. Thus, “turnout habit” is best measured by an index of repeated behavior and a consistent performance setting. Once habit associations form, the response can be cued even in the absence of supporting beliefs and motivations. Therefore, variables that form part of the standard cognitive-based accounts of turnout should be more weakly related to turnout among those with a strong habit. We draw evidence from a large array of ANES surveys to test these hypotheses and find strong support.


Habit Voter turnout Automaticity 



The authors are extremely grateful to Chris Achen, Rick Hoyle, Michael MacKuen, Abigail Panter, and Eric Plutzer. We are particularly grateful to Ashley Taylor for her assistance with early data analyses. A previous version of this paper was presented at the 2008 Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association. Montgomery received funding from a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship.

Supplementary material

11109_2010_9148_MOESM1_ESM.doc (35 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 35 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • John H. Aldrich
    • 1
  • Jacob M. Montgomery
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wendy Wood
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceDuke UniversityDurhamUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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