Research in Political Science

Voter Decision-Making in Low Information Elections

By David Borges

 

An astonishing number of elections in the United States occur at the local level. Because of various factors, these elections are low-turnout and low-information affairs. Frequently, regarding these local elections, the general electorate is woefully uninformed, and certain variables available to voters in more high-profile elections are unavailable to voters. Regardless, voters still head to the polls to cast their votes for candidates running for various positions in their local municipality.

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While much research has been dedicated to evaluating voting determinants in higher profile elections, like those concerning presidential, senatorial and congressional contests, little has been dedicated to studying the more local level. Considering the magnitude and frequency at which local elections occur, Professors Shannon Jenkins and Doug Roscoe saw it fit to dedicate time to study how voters in low-information, local elections make their decisions. Thus, I was asked to spend time over summer break to help in this study and sought OUR funding to do so.

As a result I, alongside Professors Jenkins and Roscoe, was involved in multiple aspects of conducting a research, including data collection, imputing data into SPSS, conducting a literature review, formulating hypotheses, looking for patterns in the data and finally obtaining results and reaching conclusions. The work was originally prepared for and presented at the 2016 New England Political Science Association Conference and was just recently sent to the New England Journal of Political Science for publication. It is currently under review.

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The poster of the 2016 New England Political Science Association Conference, where Borges presented the final results of his research in conjunction with his supervisors.

 

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Participating in this OUR funded project was a worthwhile endeavor. I have been able to use what I learned from this research both professionally and personally. Living in a small town with a similar form of government as in the one we studied, I can apply findings from our research to my own community. Being interested in politics, I have and will continue to become involved in local politics in my hometown. As such, I can use what I learned to help impact my community in a meaningful way. Understanding who votes and how they decide whom to vote for in these local, low-information elections is a significant advantage.

 

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Sample data analysis from Borges’s OUR funded research

 

Finally, by participating in this project I was able to work with two seasoned and distinguished researchers, thus learning the process of developing and implementing research much more thoroughly. Learning about the process in class is one thing, but it is a whole new experience carrying out the process from a different perspective. This experience has been extremely valuable to me, thanks to the OUR. Partaking in research provides undergraduate students with so many ways to explore their interests and bring their educational experience to a whole new level.

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