Good excuses: Understanding who votes with an improved turnout question

Brian Duff, Michael J. Hanmer, Won Ho Park, Ismail K. White

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Utilizing studies which validate voter turnout, previous researchers have been able to identify a strong tendency for individuals to report voting when they in fact did not. In this article, we assess the effectiveness of a new turnout question on reducing voter over-reporting in the National Election Study. Providing respondents with socially acceptable excuses for not voting, we found that this alternate question significantly reduces the over-reporting of turnout in the 2002 National Election Study by about 8 percentage points. Moreover, our analysis reveals that with the new question wording, estimates of the turnout rate for those usually thought to be the least likely to vote are considerably lower than estimates using the traditional question. Thus, not only did the experiment work to significantly reduce over-reporting, the new question provides deeper insights into the voting behavior of the American electorate that has implications for both scholars and reformers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)67-90
Number of pages24
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2007
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Communication
  • History
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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