The American Nonvoter

The 2020 election is two months away, but how many Americans will actually vote?

The American nonvoter

Ragsdale, Lyn. by Lyn Ragsdale and Jerrold G. Rusk Oxford, 2017
315p bibl index, 9780190670702 $99.00, 9780190670719 $34.95, 9780190670740

In a landmark study of political participation, Ragsdale and Rusk uncover several important explanations for nonvoting in US elections. Key variables are internal and external uncertainty employed in multivariate analyses of American National Election Studies surveys. The authors discover that uncertainty is “as pivotal to understanding the American nonvoter as psychological involvement, demographic characteristics, and the social connections of individual citizens and the campaign mobilization of candidates and parties.” Also revealed are three types of nonvoters: the politically ignorant (poor candidates for mobilization), the indifferent, and those with personal hardships (all better candidates for mobilization). Though many analysts have noted the rise in nonvoting since a “high water mark” of turnout in 1960, the authors present a more thorough analysis of nonvoting through the lens of uncertainty, which reveals several peaks and valleys in turnout throughout US history. Wars, economic difficulties, and technological advances in communication boosted uncertainty and thus voting, but cable television, offering a range of distracting alternatives, increased nonvoting. An abundance of additional important findings—all derived from careful research—make this an essential volume for all scholars of US politics.

Summing Up: Essential. Upper-division undergraduates through professionals.
Reviewer: S. E. Schier, Carleton College
Subject: Social & Behavioral Sciences – Political Science – U.S. Politics
Choice Issue: Nov 2017