Political Behavior, Vol. 22, No. 2, 2000
RESIDENTIAL MOBILITY, COMMUNITY
MOBILITY, AND ELECTORAL PARTICIPATION
This article investigates why Americans who move have lower voter turnout than those
who stay put. Two hypotheses are drawn from the political science literature. One
emphasizes the need to register at one’s new address in order to vote. The other locates
the cause of lower turnout in the disruption of social connections that results from
moving. By distinguishing those who change residences within their communities from
those who move outside of their communities, I test the hypotheses. The findings show
that both types of moves affect turnout. However, changing residences appears to be
more important than changing communitites. Thus it appears that the explanation for
the relationship between moving and turnout derives more from the need to register
after moving than the disruption of social ties.
Americans who move have lower voter turnout than those who stay put.
This widely accepted observation has engendered a number of interpretations,
none of which has been convincingly supported. This article lays out the rival
hypotheses, explains why previous tests are inadequate, and then proceeds to
develop and estimate a model to assess the competing claims.
There are two primary explanations for the negative effect of mobility on
turnout. One hypothesis points to the precursor to voting, registration. Often
a low priority, especially well in advance of election day when the registration
books close in many states, the need to register is not a trivial cost. Because
everyone who moves must register at their new address in order to vote, their
turnout is expected to be lower than that of those who have not moved. “The
requirement that citizens must register anew after each change in residence
constitutes the key stumbling block in the trip to the polls” (Squire, Wolfinger,
and Glass, 1987, p. 45). The longer people have lived in their homes, the more
time they have to register.
Benjamin Highton, Department of Political Science, University of California, One Shields
Avenue, Davis, CA 95616-8682 (email@example.com).
0190-9320/00/0600-0109$18.00/0 2000 Plenum Publishing Corporation