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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Political Science

Year Degree Awarded

2017

Month Degree Awarded

May

First Advisor

Brian F. Schaffner

Second Advisor

Tatishe M. Nteta

Third Advisor

Seth K. Goldman

Fourth Advisor

Stephen D. Ansolabehere

Subject Categories

American Politics | Models and Methods | Social Psychology

Abstract

American politics scholarship has in great measure dedicated itself to the study of

democratic participation in elections. Texts that are considered the cannon on electoral

participation have extended our knowledge of the factors that increase/decrease turnout,

however, this work has relied on self-reports of turnout in surveys. The use of selfreported

turnout is problematic because a non-trivial proportion of survey respondents

say they went out to vote when they actually did not, meaning they overreport turnout.

Overreports of voter turnout are false reports of participation in elections by nonvoters

when responding to political surveys.

Appropriately, scholars of voting behavior have dedicated a great deal of research

to the study of this phenomenon by conducting vote validation studies. This work has

engendered important questions about the study of overreporting and how it affects the

study of voter turnout. There are four major questions in the literature which I address

throughout the dissertation: 1) How accurate is vote validation?, 2) Do overreports bias

statistical models of turnout?, 3) What is the correct way to measure and model

overreporting?, and 4) What is the cognitive mechanism through which overreports

occur?

The first chapter describes the phenomenon of voter turnout overreports in

surveys and how they affect estimations of turnout in political polling, and derives a

social desirability theory of overreporting from the vote validation literature. Chapter 2

presents analysis of the persistence and prevalence of overreporting in the Cooperative

Congressional Election Study of 2008 2010, 2012, and 2014. Also, a comprehensive look

at the demographic, social and political characteristics of voters, nonvoters and overreporters

using data from the 2014 and 2012 CCES. Chapter 3 constitutes the first

original contribution to the study of overreporting by proposing a new way of modeling

the likelihood of overreporting through multinomial logistic regression analysis. Most

Importantly, in Chapter 4, I test the social desirability theory of overreporting, namely

analysis of response latency data from the 2014 and 2012 CCES studies. Finally, the

conclusion of this dissertation summarizes the main findings of previous chapters and

presents analysis of the bias induced by overreports in statistical models of turnout.

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