Individual and systemic influences on turnout: Who votes? 1984

Jan E. Leighley, Jonathan Nagler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


While Wolfinger and Rosenstone's (1980) analysis of turnout in presidential elections focused on individual demographic characteristics, several scholars (Patterson and Caldeira 1983; Cox and Munger 1989) have emphasized the importance of state-level systemic variables (e.g., per capita income, party competition, and campaign spending) in predicting turnout. This paper addresses three main questions. First, are individual demographic characteristics as influential in predicting turnout in 1984 as Wolfinger and Rosenstone found they were in 1972? Second, do individual characteristics lessen in importance when systemic factors are controlled for? And, third, to what extent does the effect of individual characteristics vary across different regions? Data on individual demographic characteristics are taken from the Census Bureau's November 1984 Current Population Survey and merged with systemic data. We find that race and sex have become much stronger predictors of turnout than they were in 1972, though education is still the primary determinant of voting. These relationships hold even when systemic variables are included in the turnout model.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)718-740
Number of pages23
JournalThe Journal of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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