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Civic Norms, Social Sanctions, and Voter Turnout

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  • STEPHEN KNACK

    (George Mason University)

Abstract

Voter participation is viewed as a collective action problem overcome chiefly by means of “solidary†and “purposive†selective incentives in the contemporary United States rather than by material incentives. It is argued that these incentives are primarily in the form of civic or societal norms rather than special interest norms associated with partisan or group loyalties as in Uhlaner's (1986) model. The emphasis on civic norms is supported by positive correlations between turnout and other socially cooperative behaviors such as responding to the census, participating in parent-teacher associations, and giving to charities. Data on interpersonal pressures to vote are found to support the hypothesis that “enforcement†of voting norms via social sanctions significantly enhances turnout. The American turnout decline is interpreted in terms of a weakening of social ties adversely affecting the socialization and enforcement of norms responsible for generating civic participation .

Suggested Citation

  • Stephen Knack, 1992. "Civic Norms, Social Sanctions, and Voter Turnout," Rationality and Society, , vol. 4(2), pages 133-156, April.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:ratsoc:v:4:y:1992:i:2:p:133-156
    DOI: 10.1177/1043463192004002002
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    References listed on IDEAS

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