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Diffusion and Spatial Equilibrium of a Social Norm: Voting Participation in the United States, 1920-2008

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  • Coleman, Stephen

Abstract

Social conformity can spread social norms and behaviors through a society. This research examines such a process geographically and over time for voting, which is strongly influenced by the norm that citizens should vote. A mathematical model for the spread of voting participation under the influence of social conformity is developed based on the diffusion equation, and predictions are tested with spatial analysis of state-level voter turnout in American presidential elections from 1920 to 2008. Results show that voter turnout has converged to a stable equilibrium in its geographical distribution across the states—but it is an equilibrium that results in persistent differences at the state level. Turnout increases about one percentage point with each degree of latitude.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 43509.

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Date of creation: 31 Dec 2012
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Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:43509

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Keywords: social norm; voter turnout; social conformity; spatial model; equilibrium; diffusion;

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  1. Knack, Stephen & Kropf, Martha, 1998. "For shame! The effect of community cooperative context on the probability of voting," MPRA Paper 27258, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  2. Brock,W.A. & Durlauf,S.N., 2000. "Discrete choice with social interactions," Working papers, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems 7, Wisconsin Madison - Social Systems.
  3. Young, H.P., 1999. "Diffusion in Social Networks," Papers, Brookings Institution - Working Papers 2, Brookings Institution - Working Papers.
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