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Local Elections and the Politics of Small-Scale Democracy$
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J. Eric Oliver, Shang E. Ha, and Zachary Callen

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780691143552

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691143552.001.0001

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Who Votes in Local Elections?

Who Votes in Local Elections?

(p.53) Chapter 2 Who Votes in Local Elections?
Local Elections and the Politics of Small-Scale Democracy

J. Eric Oliver

Shang E. Ha

Zachary Callen

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines who votes in local elections and whether their low electoral turnout is problematic for the legitimacy of their local democracies. The evidence suggests that, for the overwhelming number of American municipalities, low turnout is not a problem because of the types of people who vote in local contests: educated homeowners who are long-term residents of their communities. These “homevoters” are not only more committed to their communities but are also more likely to be politically engaged and informed about local affairs. Although they tend to be more fiscally conservative than renters, they do not systematically differ in their opinions about all political and social issues. Whatever biases do exist as a result of low turnout in local elections are tilted toward policies that protect property values and suppress property taxes. However, given the difference in political knowledge and interest between voters and nonvoters, it is not clear that higher turnout would change this, largely because nonvoters would probably have less clearly informed preferences.

Keywords:   local elections, voter turnout, local government, American municipalities, political participation, political engagement

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