Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Embargo Period

4-5-2016

Degree Program

Political Science

Degree Type

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Year Degree Awarded

2016

Month Degree Awarded

May

Abstract

Democracy in the United States operates under two contradictory norms: that it is a civic duty to vote, and that it is irresponsible to cast an uninformed vote. Do these contrasting norms suppress voter turnout? Why do some uninformed Americans turn out to vote while others do not? This study seeks to understand the information barriers that Americans perceive to be in the way of voting by studying how voters and nonvoters differ in their perceptions of the importance of various heuristics. By analyzing a 2012 Cooperative Congressional Election Study survey question that measures respondents’ prioritization of these information shortcuts, this study is able to understand how the prioritization of certain heuristics is associated with turnout rates. I find that high prioritization of the partisan identification heuristic and the heuristic based on the candidate a respondent’s friend supports is associated with higher turnout rates. I argue that this is because of the density of information offered by each heuristic and their usefulness in aiding in the decision-making process for potential voters. I conclude that perception of the usefulness of heuristics matters to turnout, and that this is a start to understanding how information costs may hinder turnout where it would otherwise exist.

First Advisor

Scott Blinder

Second Advisor

Brian Schaffner

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