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For Shame! The Effect of Community Cooperative Context on the Probability of Voting

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The question of why some people vote in American national elections and others do not has been the focus of a vast literature in social science. This study builds on previous work emphasizing the political relevance of civic norms prescribing social cooperation. County-level census response rates were used to measure the strength of civic norms in counties represented in the 1992 National Election Study (NES). The analysis shows that a person's likelihood of voting increases with the census response rate in the county of residence, controlling for the usual set of factors associated with turnout. The probability of voting was also correlated with the incidence of cooperative behavior in other arenas, such as giving to charities or willingly serving on juries. These findings provide support for the importance of cooperative norms in explaining political participation. In addition, the relationship between voting and county-level census response was significantly greater among respondents who read newspapers more often; hence, newspapers evidently are one means by which social expectations are communicated.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: American University, 2: University of Maryland

Publication date: September 1, 1998

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