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Title: Decisions Are Made by Those Who Show Up: A Logit Analysis of the Effect of Preregistration Laws on Youth Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections
Authors: Ely, Deirdre
Advisors: Londregan, John B.
Department: Woodrow Wilson School
Class Year: 2017
Abstract: Despite the United States of America’s reputation as a bastion for democracy and freedom known worldwide, turnout in U.S. elections routinely pales in comparison to that of other industrialized democracies. In the two most recent presidential elections, turnout averaged at 55% of all eligible voters. Nevertheless, even though low voter turnout across the entire voting population has been a common thread in U.S. elections for the last fifty years, there is one group for whom this phenomenon is particularly endemic: younger voters. Since 1960, turnout amongst 18-24 year olds has consistently been 15 percentage points lower than that of the rest of the voting-age population. While the implications of low youth voter turnout are obvious, especially as it relates to issues of democratic legitimacy and electoral turnout in the long-term, the academic and policy discussions as to structural causes and potential solutions remain sparse. Preregistration laws, which permit potential voters as young as sixteen to register to vote independent of their eligibility to cast a ballot in the next election, hold the greatest potential for mobilizing younger Americans to participate in our political system. By permitting sixteen and seventeen year olds (who are marginally ineligible to vote as a result of their age) to add their names to the voter rolls, these laws allow those potential voters to enter and interact with the political environment at a much younger age than they would have been able to previously, thereby fostering habitual voting habits that can last a lifetime. These mobilizing effects are particularly amplified during presidential elections, when public interest in politics is at its highest and a larger number of Americans are seeking means through which to participate. My thesis uses logit models to analyze the effect of preregistration on subsequent voting behavior amongst 15 to 19 year olds in Florida. I find that while preregistering during a presidential election has a positive effect on voting in a subsequent election across the line of voter eligibility, that effect is much stronger and robust to hypothesis tests amongst the marginally ineligible than the marginally eligible, whose future voting behavior is more heavily dependent on their eligibility to vote in Election 1. Robustness checks reveal that the positive effects of preregistration are independent of registration timing for marginally ineligible voters in Election 1. These results have significant implications for the future of voter registration reform as well as for youth voter turnout.
Type of Material: Princeton University Senior Theses
Language: en_US
Appears in Collections:Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, 1929-2021

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