Using Battleground States as a Natural Experiment to Test Theories of Voting

35 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 31 Aug 2009

See all articles by Alan Gerber

Alan Gerber

Yale University - Department of Political Science; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Gregory Huber

Yale University - Department of Political Science

Conor Dowling

Yale University

David Doherty

Yale University

Nicole Schwartzberg

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law; Yale University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

In this paper, we employ a longer time series (1980-2008) than previous research to gauge the effect of status as a battleground (or, pivotal) state on state-level turnout. Our model of state-level turnout also includes (1) midterm elections, which allow us to directly compare the effect of battleground status on turnout to the across the board increase associated with the presidential election and (2) state fixed effects, which capture persistent state-level factors related to turnout. We find that the effect of the presidential election dwarfs the effect of being a battleground state (by a ratio of about 8:1); for all the attention battleground states receive, turnout is only about two percentage points higher than in non battleground states. The large increase in turnout in presidential elections in all states, battleground and spectator states alike, suggests turnout levels are primarily linked to factors that affect the entire electorate, such as the importance of the presidency, rather than factors that influence just a portion of the country, such as intensive campaigning and mobilization efforts or greater chance of casting a decisive vote.

Suggested Citation

Gerber, Alan and Huber, Gregory and Dowling, Conor and Doherty, David and Schwartzberg, Nicole, Using Battleground States as a Natural Experiment to Test Theories of Voting (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1451200

Alan Gerber

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States
203-432-5232 (Phone)

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Gregory Huber

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States

Conor Dowling (Contact Author)

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

David Doherty

Yale University ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

Nicole Schwartzberg

University of California, Berkeley, School of Law ( email )

215 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, CT 06520-8269
United States

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