Political Socialization in Context: The Effect of Political
Competition on Youth Voter Turnout
Julianna Sandell Pacheco
Published online: 8 February 2008
Ó Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008
Abstract Adolescence is an important time for political development. Researchers
have concentrated on the family as the sole socializing agent of youths; however, as
Campbell, Gimpel, and others have shown, political contexts also matter for young
citizens. Using the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988, the Record of
American Democracy, and election outcomes data, I ﬁnd that adolescents who
resided in politically competitive locales or states have higher turnout years later
compared to those who lived in uncompetitive contexts. These effects are not
mediated by the home political environment and act through political socialization.
This research adds to a growing literature on the inﬂuence of political contexts
on political behavior and is the ﬁrst to explore how political competition during
adolescence inﬂuences voter turnout in young adulthood.
Keywords Youth voter turnout Á Political socialization Á Political competition Á
During adolescence citizens learn about their democratic responsibilities and also
acquire political attitudes that translate into adult political behavior and opinions
(Beck and Jennings 1982; Jennings and Markus 1984; Alwin and Krosnick 1991).
Researchers have traditionally concentrated on the family as the major socializing
agent, ﬁnding that political discussion within the home, parental voter turnout, and
political resources signiﬁcantly impact political participation in young adulthood
(Verba et al. 2005; Brady et al. 1995).
An earlier version of this article was presented at the Annual Meetings of the Midwest Political Science
Association, April 20–23, 2006 in Chicago.
J. S. Pacheco (&)
Department of Political Science, The Pennsylvania State University,
224 Pond Laboratory, University Park, PA 16802, USA
Polit Behav (2008) 30:415–436