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The Turnout Gap

Book description

In The Turnout Gap, Bernard L. Fraga offers the most comprehensive analysis to date of the causes and consequences of racial and ethnic disparities in voter turnout. Examining voting for Whites, African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans from the 1800s to the present, Fraga documents persistent gaps in turnout and shows that elections are increasingly unrepresentative of the wishes of all Americans. These gaps persist not because of socioeconomics or voter suppression, but because minority voters have limited influence in shaping election outcomes. As Fraga demonstrates, voters turn out at higher rates when their votes matter; despite demographic change, in most elections and most places, minorities are less electorally relevant than Whites. The Turnout Gap shows that when politicians engage the minority electorate, the power of the vote can win. However, demography is not destiny. It is up to politicians, parties, and citizens themselves to mobilize the potential of all Americans.


‘Fraga wrestles with one of the core political puzzles of our time: why does voter turnout lag among non-whites relative to whites? He offers a theoretically compelling explanation and tests it with the best available data and the most sophisticated analytical tools. The Turnout Gap represents a major contribution to our understanding of American political behavior.'

Vincent L. Hutchings - University of Michigan

‘Fraga's analysis is full of striking findings. He shows that the gap in turnout between whites and non-whites is larger than we thought; that running a non-white candidate does not really close the gap; and that voter identification laws have not consistently widened it. His ultimate explanation for this gap shows us why white voters remain dominant even in an increasingly diverse United States. This is a book that scholars, journalists, politicians, and the Supreme Court definitely need to read.'

John Sides - George Washington University

‘Fraga's work is deeply situated in both the historical and contemporary politics of race, his evidence reflecting the advanced analytical tools and diverse data sources that distinguish the modern study of voter turnout. His conclusions suggest that there are no easy or simple political or policy ‘fixes' to the problem of racial/ethnic inequality in turnout (and therefore political representation more broadly), but also underscore the critical importance and potential of electoral politics for narrowing the turnout gap.'

Jan Leighley - American University, Washington DC

‘This is a very important book that takes a holistic approach to voting and race in the twenty-first century to explain the age-old question in political science of who votes, who doesn't vote, and why? Fraga expertly weighs into this rich literature by incorporating historic data, contemporary data, geographic variation, and a close examination of blacks, whites, Latinos, and Asian Americans. This book is not just a data-rich resource on voter turnout; it provides a powerful theoretical explanation for the turnout gap beyond the resource model. This book is a must-read for anyone studying voting patterns in America today.'

Matt A. Barreto - University of California, Los Angeles

‘The American citizenry grows more racially diverse every year, and yet communities of color continue to lag behind whites in political power and representation. Bernard L. Fraga offers a compelling theory for why this is the case. He finds little evidence that these gaps are due to formal voting barriers such as felon disenfranchisement and voter identification requirements. He argues instead that investments in voter mobilization and a greater sense of political empowerment benefit groups that already have high electoral influence, which, in most states and Congressional districts, still means non-Hispanic whites. Thus, advantage breeds advantage, making it difficult for marginalized communities to gain influence even as they grow in numerical size. Fraga's analysis is a sobering reminder that ‘demography is not destiny', and that parties and civic organizations need to make massive investments in outreach to disenfranchised communities in order to make American politics more representative.'

Karthick Ramakrishnan - University of California, Riverside

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