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Who Votes Now?Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States$
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Jan E. Leighley and Jonathan Nagler

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780691159348

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691159348.001.0001

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On the Representativeness of Voters

On the Representativeness of Voters

(p.154) Six On the Representativeness of Voters
Who Votes Now?

Jan E. Leighley

Jonathan Nagler

Princeton University Press

This chapter considers a critical aspect of the potential consequences of turnout, that is, whether voters are representative of nonvoters with respect to their preferred policy positions. It briefly reviews the handful of studies that have addressed the question of the representativeness of voters, and then replicate some of Wolfinger and Rosenstone's (1980) evidence for 1972 with 2008 data. It then tests expectations regarding the distinctiveness of voters' preferences using data from the 1972–2008 American National Election Studies, as well as the 2004 National Annenberg Election Study, comparing the policy preferences of voters and nonvoters on redistributive issues, as well as a variety of other policy issues. The chapter finds concludes that the seeming consensus that it would not matter if everyone voted is simply wrong, and has been wrong for a long time. That these differences have been ignored in political discourse as well as scholarly research is all the more striking given the increase in economic inequality experienced in the United States.

Keywords:   nonvoters, voter representation, U.S. presidential elections, voter behavior, voter turnout

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