Race and Turnout in U.S. Elections Exposing Hidden Effects


Orit, Kedar, and Benjamin Deufel. 2010. “Race and Turnout in U.S. Elections Exposing Hidden Effects”. Public Opinion Quarterly 74 (2) : 286-318.
Race and Turnout in U.S. Elections Exposing Hidden Effects


We demonstrate that the use of self-reported turnout data often results in misleading inferences about racial differences in turnout. We theorize about the mechanism driving report of turnout and, utilizing ANES turnout data in presidential elections from 1976 to 1988 (all years for which comparable validated data are available), we empirically model report of turnout as well as the relationship between reported and actual turnout. We apply the model to the two subsequent presidential elections in which validated data are not available, 1992 and 1996. Our findings suggest that African Americans turned out almost 20 percentage points less than did Whites in the 1992 and 1996 U.S. presidential elections—almost double the gap that the self-reported data indicates. In contrast with previous research, we show that racial differences in factors predicting turnout make African Americans less likely to vote compared to Whites and thus increase their probability of overreporting. At the same time, when controlling for this effect, other things equal, African Americans overreport electoral participation more than Whites.

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Last updated on 07/15/2018