Early Voting Experiences and Habit Formation
31 Pages Posted: 20 Oct 2019 Last revised: 8 Jul 2020
Date Written: October 8, 2019
A large body of research has shown that first-time voting experiences can have important effects on subsequent turnout, with salient elections boosting turnout later in life and non-salient ones suppressing it. We challenge this view. Following research on the context-dependent nature of habit formation, we argue that there are reasons to expect that all elections should affect subsequent turnout for elections of the same type. Comparing individuals that differ in nothing but the level of salience of the first election they were eligible for (Presidential or Midterm), we find empirical support for this expectation. Irrespective of the salience of the election, individuals are more likely to vote for, and be interested in, elections of the same type as their first voting experience. This finding helps understand the mechanism behind the formation of voting habits and challenges the view that low-salience elections have detrimental effects on subsequent participation.
Keywords: Voting habits; midterm elections; turnout; presidential elections; eligibility
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