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Regular Voters, Marginal Voters and the Electoral Effects of Turnout

  • Anthony Fowler

How do marginal voters differ from regular voters? This article develops a method for comparing the partisan preferences of regular voters to those marginal voters whose turnout decisions are influenced by exogenous factors and applies it to two sources of variation in turnout in the United States—weather and election timing. In both cases, marginal voters are over 20 percentage points more supportive of the Democratic Party than regular voters—a significant divide. The findings suggest that the expansion or contraction of the electorate can have important consequences. Moreover, the findings suggest that election results do not always reflect the preferences of the citizenry, because the marginal citizens who may stay home have systematically different preferences than those who participate. Finally, the methods developed in the article may enable future researchers to compare regular and marginal voters on many different dimensions and in many different electoral settings.

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Anthony Fowler is an Assistant Professor in the Harris School of Public Policy Studies at the University of Chicago, 1155 East 60th St., Room 165, Chicago, IL 60637 ( Thanks to Jim Alt, Steve Ansolabehere, Dan Carpenter, Gloria Chao, Ryan Enos, Bernard Fraga, Andy Hall, Eitan Hersh, Gabe Lenz, Michael Martinez and Jim Snyder for helpful comments.

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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
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