Reaching Out, Reaching In
Edited by Viva Ona Bartkus and James H. Davis
Chapter 6: Communities, Schools and Voter Turnout: A Case Study in Social Norms
6. Communities, schools and voter turnout: a case study in social norms David E. Campbell This chapter advances the provocative claim that it is not necessary to have a close election in order to observe high voter turnout. Rather, in contrast to conventional wisdom among election observers, we have reason to believe that turnout can increase as electoral competition decreases. This claim is predicated upon the existence of two types of voters: homo politicus, who votes in highly competitive situations because she believes her vote can make a diﬀerence; and homo civicus, who votes because he believes that voting is a civic duty. Close examination of voter turnout in both highly and non-competitive elections (as measured by political heterogeneity and homogeneity) reveals that turnout can be high in both situations. In the latter case, civic norms that reinforce voter turnout are essential. The chapter then explores the question of where these norms are generated. While communities are responsible for many norms, some norms are formed earlier in life – thanks to families, friends and schools. A longitudinal study of adolescents reveals that the presence of a vibrant civic climate in high school has a strong correlation with voting as an adult. The logic – or rather, illogic – of collective action is an enduring puzzle in social science (Olson, 1965). Why do people engage in cooperative activity when they could simply free ride on the eﬀorts of others? Why contribute to charity? Why donate blood? Why vote? Indeed, why vote? The...
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