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Estimating Habit Formation in Voting


  • Thomas Fujiwara
  • Kyle C. Meng
  • Tom Vogl


We estimate habit formation in voting--the effect of past on current turnout--by exploiting transitory voting cost shocks. Using county-level data on U.S. presidential elections from 1952-2012, we find that precipitation on current and past election days reduces voter turnout. Our estimates imply that a 1-point decrease in past turnout lowers current turnout by 0.7-0.9 points. Consistent with a dynamic extension of the Downsian framework, current precipitation has stronger effects following previous rainy elections. Further analyses suggest that this habit formation operates by reinforcing the intrinsic satisfaction associated with voting.

Suggested Citation

  • Thomas Fujiwara & Kyle C. Meng & Tom Vogl, 2013. "Estimating Habit Formation in Voting," NBER Working Papers 19721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19721
    Note: PE POL

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Kevin Denny & Orla Doyle, 2005. "Does voting history matter : analysing persistence in turnout," Open Access publications 10197/167, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    2. Heien, Dale & Durham, Cathy, 1991. "A Test of the Habit Formation Hypothesis Using Household Data," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 73(2), pages 189-199, May.
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    4. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-1458, December.
    5. Ebonya Washington & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2009. "Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 86-111, January.
    6. Andreas Madestam & Daniel Shoag & Stan Veuger & David Yanagizawa-Drott, 2013. "Do Political Protests Matter? Evidence from the Tea Party Movement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 128(4), pages 1633-1685.
    7. Sarah Birch, 2009. "The case for compulsory voting," Public Policy Review, Institute for Public Policy Research, vol. 16(1), pages 21-27.
    8. Collins, William J. & Margo, Robert A., 2007. "The Economic Aftermath of the 1960s Riots in American Cities: Evidence from Property Values," The Journal of Economic History, Cambridge University Press, vol. 67(04), pages 849-883, December.
    9. Timothy J. Feddersen, 2004. "Rational Choice Theory and the Paradox of Not Voting," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 99-112, Winter.
    10. Madestam, Andreas & Yanagizawa-Drott, David, 2012. "Shaping of the Nation: The Effect of Fourth of July on Political Preferences and Behavior in the United States," Working Paper Series rwp12-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    11. repec:cup:apsrev:v:102:y:2008:i:01:p:49-57_08 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Green, Donald P. & Shachar, Ron, 2000. "Habit Formation and Political Behaviour: Evidence of Consuetude in Voter Turnout," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(04), pages 561-573, October.
    13. Brody, Richard A. & Sniderman, Paul M., 1977. "From Life Space to Polling Place: The Relevance of Personal Concerns for Voting Behavior," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(03), pages 337-360, July.
    14. Meredith, Marc, 2009. "Persistence in Political Participation," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 4(3), pages 187-209, October.
    15. Karen E. Dynan, 2000. "Habit Formation in Consumer Preferences: Evidence from Panel Data," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 90(3), pages 391-406, June.
    16. Alan Gerber & Donald Green & Ron Shachar, 2003. "Voting may be habit forming: Evidence from a randomized field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00251, The Field Experiments Website.
    17. repec:aei:rpaper:36359 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Raphael Bruce & Rafael Costa Lima, 2015. "Compulsory Voting and TV News Consumption," Working Papers, Department of Economics 2015_48, University of São Paulo (FEA-USP), revised 12 Jun 2017.
    2. James Andreoni & Michael A. Kuhn & Larry Samuelson, 2016. "Starting Small: Endogenous Stakes and Rational Cooperation," NBER Working Papers 21934, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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