Voter turnout in presidential primaries: A cross-sectional examination

Patrick J. Kenney, Tom W. Rice

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Decades of individual and aggregate level research suggest that three sets of factors influence voter turnout: the socioeconomic makeup of the potential voter; legal restrictions on voting; and the political context of each election. In this brief study, we use state-level data to test whether these factors combine to account for variations in turnout rates in the electoral arena of presidential primaries. As expected, high turnout is associated with states which have high median levels of education, lenient legal restrictions on voting, and a history of competitive two-party elections. Also congruent with our expectations, but at odds with research of other electoral arenas, high turnout in presidential primaries is unrelated to high campaign spending or close elections. We contend that spending in presidential primaries may be simply too low to stimulate turnout and that close primaries do not enhance turnout because voters are often unaware that the pending election will be close.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)101-112
Number of pages12
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 1985
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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