Turnout in a Small World
SOCIAL LOGIC OF POLITICS, pp. 269-287, Alan Zuckerman, (ed.), Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 2005
42 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2007
This article investigates between-voter interactions in a social network model of turnout. It shows that if 1) there is a small probability that voters imitate the behavior of one of their acquaintances, and 2) individuals are closely connected to others in a population (the "small-world" effect), then a single voting decision may affect dozens of other voters in a "turnout cascade." If people tend to be ideologically similar to other people they are connected to, then these turnout cascades will produce net favorable results for their favorite candidate. By changing more than one vote with one's own turnout decision, the turnout incentive is thus substantially larger than previously thought. We analyze conditions that are favorable to turnout cascades and show that the effect is consistent with real social network data from Huckfeldt and Sprague's South Bend and Indianapolis-St. Louis election surveys. We also suggest that turnout cascades may help explain over-reporting of turnout and the ubiquitous belief in a duty to vote.
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