Mind the (Participation) Gap: Vouchers, Voting, and Visibility

32 Pages Posted: 19 Mar 2019

See all articles by Abby K. Wood

Abby K. Wood

University of Southern California Gould School of Law

Christopher S. Elmendorf

University of California, Davis - School of Law

Douglas Spencer

University of Connecticut, School of Law

Date Written: March 18, 2019

Abstract

This study exploits the introduction of a new type of public financing of elections|campaign finance vouchers|to estimate the effects of neighborhood-level political cross pressure on citizens' decisions to participate in low-cost political activities which vary in their publicness: voting (private) and vouchering (public). For each registered voter in our sample, we measure the "participation gap" (voting minus vouchering) to assess whether local ideological outliers are less likely to use their vouchers, and, conditional on using their vouchers, more likely to distribute vouchers insincerely. We find that cross-pressured people are slightly more likely to use vouchers than matched control units who are ideologically typical of their precincts. We do find a slight effect of neighborhood cross-pressure on sincerity of voucher assignments, but, curiously, people who live in an ideologically incongruent precinct do not shade their voucher donations toward candidates who are close the precinct mean. While our study is limited to a single municipal election in a relatively liberal city (Seattle), our methods can easily be extended to future elections, and our findings raise questions about the empirical assumptions that have shaped the development of campaign finance jurisprudence since 1976.

Keywords: campaign finance, disclosure, vouchers, political cross pressure, matching, homophily, public financing, political participation

Suggested Citation

Wood, Abby K. and Elmendorf, Christopher S. and Spencer, Douglas, Mind the (Participation) Gap: Vouchers, Voting, and Visibility (March 18, 2019). USC Law Legal Studies Paper No. 19-9; USC CLASS Research Paper No. CLASS19-9; UC Davis Legal Studies Research Paper . Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3354826 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3354826

Abby K. Wood (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

HOME PAGE: http://weblaw.usc.edu/contact/contactInfo.cfm?detailID=71046

Christopher S. Elmendorf

University of California, Davis - School of Law ( email )

Martin Luther King, Jr. Hall
Davis, CA CA 95616-5201
United States
530-752-5756 (Phone)
530-753-5311 (Fax)

Douglas Spencer

University of Connecticut, School of Law ( email )

65 Elizabeth Street
Hartford, CT 06105
United States

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