Explaining the age gap in voter turnout in the United States
Koch, Walter E.
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There is an age gap in voter turnout. Young people are less likely to vote than those who are older. This research seeks to answer the questions: What are the main explanations for the age gap in turnout? And, how much does each explanation account for the age gap in turnout? Several explanations for the age gap in turnout are examined using NES data from 1976 to 2004. The conclusion of this research is that the most likely explanation for the age gap in turnout is that young people are less civically competent than those who are older. More specifically, they pay much less attention to politics. The second most likely reason is that young people are less attached to a community compared to those who are older. The third and fourth most likely explanations, that young people have lower family incomes and are weaker partisans, explain approximately the same amount of the age gap in turnout. The least likely explanations for the age gap in turnout are that they are less likely to be mobilized by political parties and that they attend church less frequently. Over time, age differences in civic competence and mobilization explained more of the age gap in turnout and age differences in community attachment explained less. The main way to decrease the age gap in turnout, especially in recent years, is to steer the attention of young people towards politics so that they can better understand politics. This may provide them with more incentive to vote on election day.