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Corresponding Author:
Richard J. Cebula, Davis College of Business, Jacksonville University, Jacksonville, Florida, USA

The Voter Turnout/Relative Unemployment Rate Hypothesis

Volume 72 - Issue 3, August 2019
(pp. 255-280)
JEL classification: D72, J64, R12
Keywords: Relative Unemplyment Rate, Voter Participation Rate, Unemployment Rate Differentials


This study proffers and investigates empirically the “Voter Turnout/Relative Unemployment Rate Hypothesis,” a hypothesis arguing that the higher the unemployment rate in a state relative to the unemployment rate in the nation as a whole, the greater the voter participation rate of eligible voters in that state, ceteris paribus. The study period involves the U.S. Presidential election-cycles for the years 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012, and 2016 and adopts a state-level panel dataset. The model, while focusing on the state unemployment rate relative to the unemployment rate in the nation as a whole as opposed simply to the level of the unemployment rate per se, also includes control variables for a number of established demographic, public choice, and economics factors. Random-Effects estimations reveal strong empirical support for the central hypothesis of the study. In other words, the voter participation rate among eligible voters is found to be an increasing function of the ratio of the percentage unemployment rate of the civilian labor force in a state relative to the national percentage unemployment rate. Robustness testing affirms the strength and consistency of the voter-turnout impact of this variable. In addition, as an alternative test of the resiliency of the hypothesis, the voter participation rate is found to be an increasing function of the difference between the percentage unemployment rate in a state and the national percentage unemployment rate. These findings also suggest that the higher the unemployment rate in a state vis-à-vis the unemployment rate in the nation as a whole, the greater the degree to which eligible voters in that state, arguably both employed eligible voters concerned with the implications of excessive high unemployment as well as resentful/angry unemployed eligible voters with their own feelings regarding the unemployment rate issue go the polls to cast their votes.

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Institute for International Economics
of the Genoa Chamber of Commerce

Istituto di Economia Internazionale
Camera di Commercio di Genova
Via Garibaldi, 4 (III piano) - 16124 Genova (Italy)