This thesis reexamines the effect of divided government on voter turnout originally posited by Franklin and Hirczy de Miño (1998), which suggested that each year of exposure to divided government resulted in a cumulative negative effect on voters leading to alienation and lower turnout. It reconsiders this argument using more recent data, given that voter turnout in U.S. presidential elections (as measured by the Voting Eligible Population) has increased since 2000, even though divided government has occurred during this period. This thesis also uses new data and methods to address concerns about the original aggregate level research design. The research question is tested at the individual-level of analysis to determine if divided government does interact with political trust to lower turnout. Previous research assumed this relationship since there is no aggregate-level proxy for political trust. By using survey data from the American National Election Studies it is now possible to test the full theory. The aggregate-level models show that misspecifications in the research design of Franklin and Hirczy de Miño resulting in multicollinearity, and in two instances autocorrelation, which resulted in a failure to reject the null hypothesis. The individual-level models show that divided government interacts with low levels of political trust to increase voter turnout, falsifying the argument about the effect of divided government on turnout. Overall, the thesis suggests that the implications of an aspect of the American political system that renders it distinguishable from most other advanced-industrial democracies—divided party control of the executive and legislative branches—should be reassessed. More generally, the thesis demonstrates the importance of reevaluating hypotheses in political science with the most recent data and more robust methods in order to establish whether those original hypotheses are still supported.
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Master of Arts (M.A.)
College of Sciences
School of Politics, Security, and International Affairs
Length of Campus-only Access
Masters Thesis (Open Access)
Beck, Heidi, "Reexamining the Relationship Between Divided Government and Voter Turnout" (2019). Electronic Theses and Dissertations, 2004-2019. 6758.