Change in voting turnout, 1952 - 1972

Michael Hout, David Knoke

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


The relationship of age to voting turnout over a 20-year period is analyzed in a multivariate model with controls for causal covariates and "period" and "cohort" effects. The observed curvilinear pattern of turnout with age remains after holding rival factors constant, but the apparent curvilinearity of cohort membership disappears. Instead, a pattern of decreasing turnout among successively younger birth cohorts is found, suggesting differences in the political socialization of voting obligations between the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)52-68
Number of pages17
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1975

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* The authors appreciate suggestions made at various stages of the research by Professors Elton F. Jackson and Angela Lane of Indiana University and by William M. Mason of the University of Michigan. Data used herein were made available through the Inter-University Consortium for Political Research. Support for the analysis was made possible in part by a grant from the Indiana University Biomedical Research Support Committee. None of the above parties are responsible for the final results. 1Angus Campbell, Philip E. Converse, Donald E. Stokes, and Warren E. Miller, The American Voter, New York, Wiley, 1960, pp. 493-496; Philip E. Converse and Richard G. Niemi, "Non-Voting Among Young Adults in the United States," in W. J. Crotty et al., eds., Political Parties and Political Behavior, 2nd. ed., Boston, Allyn and Bacon, 1971, pp. 443-466; and John Crittenden, "Aging and Political Participation," Western Political Quarterly, Vol. 16, 1963, pp. 323-331. 1Norval D. Glenn and Michael Grimes, "Aging, Voting, and Political Interest," American Sociological Review, Vol. 33, 1968, pp. 563-575. This study employed 28 Gallup polls over a 20-year period, unlike the studies reporting a curvilinear relationship, which have confined their analyses to a cross-sectional sample at one point in time. One analysis, which used only a single sample survey and found a curvilinear relationship but upon correction for sociocconomic status (education and income) found no drop-off in voting rates over age 65, is reported in Sidney Verba and Norman H. Nie, Participation in America: Political Democracy and Social Equality, New York, Harper and Row, 1972, chap. 9. With evidence from only one point in time, the authors were unable to determine whether the relationship was generational or a life-cycle effect.


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