Registration and Voter Turnout Among All Citizens
Previous research shows that "citizens of higher social and economic status participate more in politics. This generalization...holds true whether one uses level of education, income, or occupation as the measure of social status" (Verba and Nie 1972:125; see also Casper and Bass 1998; Leighley and Nagler 1992). Lewis, McCracken, and Hunt (1994) hold that those with higher stakes in society are the most likely to go to the polls -- older individuals, homeowners, and married couples.
The majority of these studies examine the bivariate relationships between voting and registration and other factors. However, evidence suggests that it is important to examine these relationships in a multivariate framework. Variations in income have been noted to have little relationship to voting once age and education are taken into account (Wolfinger 1994). In addition, Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980) contend that although married men and women are more likely to vote than others, the effects among both men and women vary considerably with age and education. These results suggest that there is a need to consider these factors in a multivariate model to assess their relative importance, once other factors have been taken into account.
Leighley and Nagler (1992) tested whether demographic factors, like race and gender, are more important than socioeconomic factors like education in predicting voter turnout, and found that while it is important to include measures of demographic factors, education is a much stronger predictor of voter turnout. Likewise, Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980) document the lower voter turnout among Blacks and Hispanics, but attribute this lower rate of voter turnout to lower educational levels and higher proportions of young and poor among minorities. Other results suggest that women are also more likely to register and vote (Jennings 1985, 1989, 1993).
Squire, Wolfinger, and Glass (1987) assert that it is important to consider the effect of residential mobility on registration and voting behavior. They found that movers resemble stayers on motivational factors related to voting and that this effect remains net of other socioeconomic and demographic factors. Therefore, they conclude that the requirement that citizens must register anew after each change in residence constitutes a key stumbling block in the path of a trip to the polls. Length of residence is a particularly important factor to consider in a highly mobile country like the U.S. where 16 percent of Americans move every year (Hansen 1997).
Another problem with some previous voting studies is that they are not always nationally representative of the voting population (Leighley and Nagler 1992; Verba and Nie 1972). Other research, such as that conducted by Squire, Wolfinger, and Glass (1987) and Wolfinger and Rosenstone (1980), used Current Population Survey data which was based on a nationally representative sample of the total civilian noninstitutionalized U.S. population. However, these two studies had to separate the citizen population from the total U.S. population using imperfect measures because citizenship status was neither directly asked nor fully edited in prior surveys. Also, the majority of studies are somewhat outdated; they are based on data collected in the 1980s.
In this study, we improve upon previous research in several ways. First, we use the most recent data available to examine voting and registration. Second, because of the availability of new, more accurate data on citizenship, we are able to restrict our analysis to the citizen population. Third, we use multivariate models to simultaneously control for many factors known to be related to voting and registration.
We expect that women, older individuals, married individuals, non-Hispanic whites, those with higher levels of education and income, those who are employed, homeowners, and those residing in their homes for longer periods of time will be more likely to register and vote, all else being equal. In addition, recent research has not investigated whether having children is associated with the registration and voting behavior of citizens.1 One might reason that those with children of school age would be more likely to be involved in their school districts and in local elections since the results are likely to affect the well-being of their children. We improve on previous research by including in our analysis a measure of whether or not an individual has related children under 18 in the household.
Registration and Voter Turnout among Naturalized Citizens
Nativity status and country of origin are important to consider in predicting the likelihood that an individual will register and vote. Different countries and regions of the world allow and exhibit different levels of political participation (Inglehart 1997). It is striking that voter participation in communist countries in the 1980s was much higher than in democratic countries of Western Europe and North America. Naturalized citizens from countries without the right to vote or from countries with one-party states might be more highly motivated to participate in the political process than native-born citizens who have had access to this right from birth.
Little research to date has been published on the differences in registration and voting behavior between naturalized and native-born citizens. Casper and Bass (1998) report in a bivariate analysis that native-born citizens are more likely to vote than naturalized citizens, except among Hispanics where the opposite is true. However, to the extent that naturalized Hispanics and native-born Hispanics have other characteristics that are positively associated with voting and registration, this effect may be spurious. For example, if naturalized Hispanics are more highly educated or earn more income, they may be more likely to vote than native-born Hispanics, not because of nativity status but because of these other factors.2 Thus, in ascertaining the relationship between nativity status and voting and registration, it is important to control for various social, economic, and demographic characteristics.
In this research, we use multivariate methods to investigate the differences in voting behavior between naturalized and native-born citizens. We expect that naturalized citizens may be more likely to vote than native-born citizens if they come from countries that didn't allow citizens the right to vote. They may also be more likely to vote to the extent that they place a higher value on the right to vote than do native-born citizens. On the other hand, if naturalized citizens are still emotionally tied to their countries of origin, they may be less likely to register and vote than native-born citizens. In addition, to the extent that native-born citizens are more integrated into their communities, are more familiar with the issues and candidates, and find the issues more applicable to themselves, we might expect native-born citizens to be more likely to register and vote than naturalized citizens.
Research also suggests that region of origin is related to voting and registration among naturalized citizens (Casper and Bass 1998). Bivariate results indicate that naturalized citizens from other North American countries, principally Canada, were found to be more likely to vote than naturalized citizens from Latin America and Asia. Naturalized citizens from other North American countries were also most likely to register, compared with those from other regions. Naturalized citizens from Asia were the least likely to register.
In this study, we examine how region of origin is related to voting and registration and expect that people immigrating from non-democratic countries may be more likely to register and vote than native-born individuals because the right to vote was not granted in their country of origin. In contrast, individuals from countries where voting rates tend to be higher than in the United States may be more likely to register and vote because voting is considered to be an important aspect of being a responsible citizen. In addition, people from different countries may be more or less likely to vote because of other cultural differences.
Length of time in the U.S. is an important factor to consider when analyzing voting participation among naturalized citizens because it is associated with the degree to which they have assimilated. For example, the 1990 decennial census indicates that overall only three-fifths of the immigrants who came 10 or fewer years ago spoke English well or very well; but among those who had been here 30 years or more, 97 percent reported that they could speak English well or very well (U.S. Bureau of the Census 1990). Clearly, assimilation and the acquisition of the English language is a gradual process which takes place over a number of years and may also have parallels in political life.
Here, we investigate whether duration in the U.S. is associated with the likelihood of voting and registration among naturalized citizens. Recently naturalized citizens had the opportunity to register at their swearing-in ceremony and therefore might be more likely to register and vote than others who have to register as a separate process. However, among the remainder of the naturalized citizens who did not receive their citizenship in the recent past, those who have lived here for longer periods of time have had longer to assimilate into their communities, to become familiar with the issues and candidates, and to develop their own set of special interests. Among this group, we therefore expect that those who have been in the U.S. for longer periods of time, will be more likely to register and vote.
Among naturalized citizens, evidence suggests that women may be more likely to register and vote than men. For example, Jones-Correa (1998) suggests that among Latin American immigrants, women draw on and become more invested in the political and governmental systems, while men remain less integrated and continue to rely on their old networks for many years after entering the U.S. He further suggests that Latin American immigrant women learn to use institutions and become politically integrated more quickly than men. In contrast, immigrant men cling to their old-country based institutions and clubs where they have higher social status based on the social structure they experienced in their country of origin.
In this study, we improve upon previous research by considering differences in registration and voting between naturalized and native-born citizens and among naturalized citizens in a multivariate framework. We expect the same factors considered for the overall citizen population to predict the propensity to register and vote among naturalized citizens age, gender, marital status, race and Hispanic origin, children in the household, education, income, employment status, homeownership, and length of current residence.