Thumbnail Image

Voter Turnout Overreports: Measurement, Modeling and Deception

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.