This introductory chapter sets out the book's purpose, which is to examine voter turnout in every U.S. presidential election from 1972 through 2008 in order to address four questions regarding the changing political context of turnout. First, how have the demographics of turnout in presidential elections changed or remained the same since 1972? Second, what have been the consequences of the broad set of election reforms designed to make registration or voting easier that have been adopted over the past several decades? Third, what is the impact of the policy choices that candidates offer voters on who votes? And fourth, is the conclusion—of the now classic study of voter turnout in the United States by Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980)—that voters are representative of nonvoters on policy issues accurate, and therefore, who votes does not really matter? The findings on these four questions advance our understanding of turnout and its consequences for representation in fundamental ways.
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