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Comment on “Voter Turnout and the National Election Studies”

  • Michael D. Martinez (a1)


A recent article by Barry Burden in Political Analysis alerts us to a steadily increasing gap during presidential election years between self-reported turnout in the NES (National Election Studies) and “official turnout” figures based on the voting-age population (VAP), and points to declining response rates as a culprit. Changing the baseline from the VAP to the VEP (voting-eligible population) significantly changes these conclusions, and point to panel effects as a culprit. The rise in the gap was not linear, but it does emerge rather suddenly in 1996. Gaps between NES self-reported turnout and VEP estimates are higher in presidential election years than in off-years, and self-reported turnout is higher among long-term panel participants than among cross-section respondents in multielection panels.



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Bartels, Larry. 2000. “Panel Effects in the American National Election Studies.” Political Analysis 8:120.
Bernstein, Robert, Chadha, Anita, and Montjoy, Robert. 2001. “Overreporting Voting—Why It Happens and Why It Matters.” Public Opinion Quarterly 65:2244.
Burden, Barry C. 2000. “Voter Turnout and the National Election Studies.” Political Analysis 8:389398.
McDonald, Michael P., and Popkin, Samuel L. 2001. “The Myth of the Vanishing Voter.” American Political Science Review 95:963974.
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