When You Don't Snooze, You Lose: A Natural Experiment on the Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Voter Turnout and Election Outcomes

63 Pages Posted: 10 Dec 2016  

John B Holbein

Princeton University

Jerome Pablo Schafer

Yale University, Department of Political Science, Students

Date Written: December 6, 2016

Abstract

In this article, we show that many citizens fail to vote because they are too tired. To do so, we leverage multiple approaches, including a unique natural quasi-experiment that exploits discontinuous decreases in sleep times on the eastern side of U.S. time zone boundaries. Our preferred model specification indicates that these exogenous decreases in sleep times depress county-level turnout in Congressional elections by about 2 percentage points. This effect is magnified in areas where obstacles to voting are greatest. Moreover, tiredness appears to exacerbate participatory inequality — depressing turnout in low propensity communities most — and push election outcomes towards Republicans. Supplementing this analysis, we conduct an observational study validating the direct relationship between tiredness and turnout. Our findings have important theoretical implications for the study of political participation. They suggest that many citizens hold the precursors to participation but lack the general, rather than expressly political, motivation to act on their intentions.

Keywords: Voter Turnout, Regression Discontinuity, Geographic Regression Discontinuity, Sleep

Suggested Citation

Holbein, John B and Schafer, Jerome Pablo, When You Don't Snooze, You Lose: A Natural Experiment on the Effect of Sleep Deprivation on Voter Turnout and Election Outcomes (December 6, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2881452 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2881452

John B Holbein (Contact Author)

Princeton University ( email )

22 Chambers Street
Princeton, NJ 08544
United States

Jerome Pablo Schafer

Yale University, Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

New Haven, CT 06520
United States

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