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Wolfinger and Rosenstone: Who votes

Disclaimer. Don't rely on these old notes in lieu of reading the literature, but they can jog your memory. As a grad student long ago, my peers and I collaborated to write and exchange summaries of political science research. I posted them to a wiki-style website. "Wikisum" is now dead but archived here. I cannot vouch for these notes' accuracy, nor can I say who wrote them.

Wolfinger and Rosenstone. 1980. Who votes?. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Main Point

Although voters have different demographic characteristics than non-voters, they have similar public policy attitudes. The key demographic difference between voters and nonvoters is education, followed by age. Other variables have little influence. (Marriage, registration laws, race, income all matter, but not much). Significantly, however, voters and nonvoters seem to have similar policy attitudes and similar partisanship/ideology (though conservatives have a slight edge).


Comments and Criticism

Like Verba and Nie (1972), this study was done before modern computing made it easy to run lots and lots of regressions with tons of controls. For this reason, I am willing to forgive both studies for not controlling for more than one variable in most regressions. I would have liked to have seen all the variables dumped into a single regression at some point, perhap with a few interactions (e.g. education*income), just to see how they all stand up against one another. Wolfinger and Rosenstone's most blatant error in this regard may have been their decision to conclude that blacks vote less than whites without doing the sort of analysis that Verba and Nie did 10 years earlier: controlling for income/education to see whether depressed black turnout was merely an artifact of their lower income and education levels.

Research by the same authors

Research on similar subjects


Wolfinger, Raymond (author)Rosenstone, Steven (author)American PoliticsVotingParticipationResponsivenessTurnout

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