Where Have All The Voters Gone? / Edition 1

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As the confusion over the ballots in Florida in 2000 demonstrated, American elections are complex and anything but user-friendly. This phenomenon is by no means new, but with the weakening of political parties in recent decades and the rise of candidate-centered politics, the high level of complexity has become ever more difficult for many citizens to navigate. Thus the combination of complex elections and the steady decline of the party system has led to a decline in voter turnout.

In this timely book, Martin Wattenberg confronts the question of what low participation rates mean for democracy. At the individual level, turnout decline has been highest among the types of people who most need to have electoral decisions simplified for them through a strong party system--those with the least education, political knowledge, and life experience.

As Wattenberg shows, rather than lamenting how many Americans fail to exercise their democratic rights, we should be impressed with how many arrive at the polls in spite of a political system that asks more of a typical person than is reasonable. Meanwhile, we must find ways to make the American electoral process more user-friendly.

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Editorial Reviews

Los Angeles Times

Even as registering to vote has been made easier, Martin P. Wattenberg explains, the decline has continued. Where Have All the Voters Gone? is a thorough review of the recent academic studies of the question...Wattenberg assesses the studies and adds a few conclusions on how to get more voters to the polls.
— Anthony Day

Arend Lipjhart
This is a very well written and well argued analysis of the problem of low and declining voter turnout in the United States...Wattenberg knows the American and comparative literatures very well, and he summarizes and integrates them expertly. In addition, he adds new and important evidence.
Richard Freeman
This is a well-organized and well-written book on an important topic. It offers a critical review of what political scientists think they know about determinants of voting turnout and some original research. A big plus is that it puts the fall in US turnout into a broader international perspective.
Los Angeles Times - Anthony Day
Even as registering to vote has been made easier, Martin P. Wattenberg explains, the decline has continued. Where Have All the Voters Gone? is a thorough review of the recent academic studies of the question...Wattenberg assesses the studies and adds a few conclusions on how to get more voters to the polls.
Library Journal
The number of Americans who bother to vote has declined for decades, to the point that the United States has the lowest turnout rate in the industrialized world, save only Switzerland. Why this is so is a question that Wattenberg (Univ. of California, Irvine; The Decline of American Political Parties) studies from every available angle-sociological, psychological, economic, and political. Much of what he finds is well known: the poor are less likely to vote than the well off, the decline of parties and rise of candidate-centered politics has adversely affected turnout, and the young vote at an abysmally low rate. His work is original, however, on such questions as the effect of negative political advertising and on the difficulties in the act of voting itself. Far more accessible than Warren E. Miller's authoritative The New American Voter and with a wider scope than Frances Fox Piven's Why Americans Still Don't Vote and Why Politicians Want It That Way, Wattenberg's book is a lucid presentation of new and prior research on an important problem. Recommended for all academic and many public libraries.-Robert F. Nardini, Chichester, NH
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674009387
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/15/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 0.47 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Martin P. Wattenberg is Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Irvine.
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Table of Contents



1. A Worldwide Turnout Problem

2. Turnout in the American States

3. Types of Individuals Who Vote

4. The New Generation Gap

5. Who Votes Does Make a Difference

6. How Voting Is Like Taking an SAT Test

7. Are Negative Ads to Blame?

8. How to Improve U.S. Turnout Rates: Lessons from Abroad



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