The effect of local political context on how Americans vote

Joshua J. Dyck, Brian J. Gaines, Daron R. Shaw

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Neighborhood context could condition voting decisions, but systematic investigation of whether (how) the traits of a given locale shape individual voting decisions is sparse. We explore the possibility that local partisan balance affects turnout and the use of convenience voting in particular. Using comprehensive registered-voter lists from four swing states in the 2002 and 2006 elections, we find an intriguing asymmetry: Republican registrants are usually sensitive to partisan context, whereas Democrats are not. Republican election-day turnout rates generally decrease with the proportion of partisan registrants that are Democratic in the area. This demobilization is only sporadically counterbalanced by greater use of convenience voting. In contrast, Democrats exhibit less systematic patterns. In many cases, there are seemingly perverse effects, wherein Democratic turnout rates fall with growing Democratic registration advantages. The asymmetry may be driven by differences in the competitiveness of elections in areas with notable imbalances in partisan registration.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1088-1115
Number of pages28
JournalAmerican Politics Research
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2009


  • Absentee and early voting
  • Convenience voting
  • Neighborhood context
  • Partisan registration
  • Turnout
  • Voting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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