And Not by Turnout Alone: Measuring the Sources of Electoral Change, 2012 to 2016
34 Pages Posted: 4 Dec 2020
Date Written: October 21, 2020
Changes in partisan outcomes between consecutive elections must come from changes in the composition of electorate or changes in the vote choices of consistent voters. The extent to which electoral change is driven by composition versus conversion has critical implications for political systems including the nature of the electoral connection and politicians' strategies while campaigning and governing. Here, we analyze electoral change between the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections using administrative data. At the precinct level, the smallest geography at which vote counts are available, we merge election returns with individual-level turnout records from 37 million registered voters in six key states. While both factors aided the GOP in 2016 in some places, our analysis suggests that pro-GOP conversion among two-election voters was particularly impactful, especially in states including Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania where the pro-GOP swings were largest. Conversion among two-election voters remains critical to electoral change.
Keywords: Electoral change, elections, turnout, composition, persuasion, swing voters
JEL Classification: H00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation