Is it What You Have or Whom You Know? Personal Attributes, Social Proximity, and Voting in Three State and Local U.S. Elections
71 Pages Posted: 6 Jul 2015
Date Written: July 6, 2015
Individual-level studies of electoral turnout and vote choice have largely focused on personal attributes as explanatory variables, ignoring the social processes that influence these behaviors. We explore one such social mechanism: individuals' social proximity to elites. Our analysis rests on new-discovered historical records which reveal the individual votes of all electors in the 1859 statewide election in Alexandria, Virginia and the 1874 municipal election in Newport, Kentucky, paired with archival work to identify the social relations of the cities' populations. We also replicate the core findings using survey data from a modern municipal election.We show that individuals more socially connected to elites vote at a higher rate and individuals more socially connected to a given political party vote disproportionately for that party. These relationships are similar in magnitude to that of socioeconomic status|the predominant explanation of voting|and robust to large levels of environmental confounds or latent homophily.
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