Early Voting Experiences and Habit Formation
44 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2019 Last revised: 19 Apr 2021
Date Written: October 8, 2019
Research has shown that first-time voting experiences affect subsequent voting behavior, with salient elections boosting subsequent turnout and non-salient ones supressing it. We challenge this view. Following research on the context-dependent nature of habit formation, we argue that all elections should affect subsequent turnout in elections of the same type. Comparing individuals that differ only in how salient their first eligible election was (Presidential or Midterm), we find support for this expectation. Individuals are more likely to vote for, and be interested in, elections of the same type as their first voting experience. Leveraging voting age laws in the US, we also show that such laws affect subsequent participation by changing the type of election individuals are first eligible for.
Keywords: Voting habits; midterm elections; turnout; presidential elections; eligibility
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