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Why Do People Vote? A Psychological Analysis of the Causes of Voter Turnout


*Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Jon A. Krosnick, Stanford University, 432 McClatchy Hall, Stanford, CA 94028 [e-mail: or].


A great deal of scholarship has explored why some democratic citizens vote while others do not. This article reviews that literature through a lens presuming that a person's likelihood of turning out on election day is a multiplicative function of his or her ability to vote, her or her motivation to vote, and the difficulty of obtaining the needed information and carrying out the behavior of voting. We conclude that (a) turnout is made more difficult and less likely by onerous registration procedures; (b) turnout is more likely among some demographic groups because of greater motivation or ability or less difficulty; (c) the social setting in which a person lives and the psychological dispositions he or she possesses can affect turnout by shaping motivation, ability, or difficulty; (d) characteristics of a specific electoral contest can inspire or discourage turnout; and (e) canvassing and interviewing people about an election can increase turnout, but preelection polls and election-day outcome projections do not. Consequently, an individual citizen/s turnout behavior is a joint function of his or her social location, his or her psychological dispositions, the procedures involved in voting, and events that occur at the time of each election.