Time Zones, Tiredness, and Turnout: A Natural Experiment on How Time Constraints Influence Elections
66 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2016 Last revised: 8 Jul 2017
Date Written: July 7, 2017
Theories of voting suggest that many people don’t vote because they don’t have enough time. However, we possess little causal evidence about the effects of time constraints on electoral behavior. In this article, we leverage a novel geographic natural experiment to show that exogenous disruptions in time allocations have significant political consequences. Namely, we show that voter turnout is lower on the marginally eastern side of U.S. time zone boundaries. Time zones also appear to exacerbate participatory inequality and push election results towards Republicans. While we explore several plausible mechanisms, our results suggest that time zones trigger a bundle of changes resulting from increased tiredness. This implies that turnout is affected not only by how much time individuals possess, but also how motivated they are to use their time productively. Our work speaks to the precursors of participation and lends insights to interventions seeking to increase voter turnout.
Keywords: Voter Turnout, Regression Discontinuity, Geographic Regression Discontinuity, Sleep
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