Sporadic voters: how attitude change influences voter turnout



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This dissertation investigates the important role attitudes play in determining the participation levels of a large number of Americans. Over the past 30 years the prominent theories in the political participation literature have stressed the importance of socioeconomic status in explaining voter turnout. More recently, some have suggested that voting is a habit that most Americans acquire over their lifetimes. I contend that this previous work is incomplete in that it overlooks a large segment of the public that I describe as sporadic voters. Using National Election Study panel data from the early 1970s and 1990s, I find that neither socioeconomic status nor habit explains the voting behavior of sporadic voters. Sporadic voters decide to participate in elections based on their political attitudes at the time of any given election. If they have stronger partisan attachments, greater campaign interest or more external efficacy sporadic voters will be more likely to show up at the polls regardless of changes in education, age or income.