Stephen Pettigrew: The Downstream Consequences of Long Waits: How Lines at the Precinct Depress Future Turnout


Wednesday, September 28, 2016, 12:00pm to 1:30pm


CGIS Knafel Building 354

Workshop in Applied Statistics presentation by Stephen Pettigrew.


Political scientists have increasingly emphasized the role played by an individual’s identity and life experiences in their patterns of political participation. In this paper, I explore how one particular type of experience–standing in line at a precinct to vote–shapes the turnout behavior of voters in future election. I demonstrate that for every additional hour a voter waits in line to vote, their probability of voting in the subsequent election drops by 1 percentage point. As a result, nearly 200,000 people did not vote in November 2014 because waiting in a long line in 2012 turned them off from the process. To arrive at these estimates, I analyze vote history files using a combination of exact matching and placebo tests to test the identification assumptions. I then leverage an unusual institutional arrangement in the City of Boston and longitudinal data from Florida to show that the result also holds at the precinct level. The findings in this paper have implications for our understanding of what motivates or demotivates a person from voting. They also suggest that racial asymmetries in precinct wait times are contributing to under-representation of racial minorities in the voter pool.

Here's the link to the paper:

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