Faculty & Research 400 million voting records show profound racial and geographic disparities in voter turnout in the United States Jun 21, 2022 By John HolbeinMichael Barber 400 million voting records show profound racial and geographic disparities in voter turnout in the United States One of the core tenets of a well-functioning representative democracy is that the people who vote to elect government officials are representative of the public. Here we reinforce the idea that reality is far from this lofty ideal. We document the extent and nature of inequities in voter participation in the United States with a level of granularity and precision that previous research has not afforded. To do so, we use a unique nationwide dataset of approximately 400 million validated voting records across multiple election cycles. With this novel dataset, we document large and persistent gaps in voter turnout by race, age, and political affiliation. Minority citizens, young people, and those who support the Democratic Party are much less likely to vote than whites, older citizens, and Republican Party supporters. Minorities, youth, and democrats are also much more likely to live in local communities where fewer individuals vote—areas that we term turnout deserts. Turnout deserts are especially pernicious given that they are self-reinforcing—bolstered by the social dynamics that fundamentally shape citizens’ voting patterns. Our results show just how glaring inequities in political participation are in the US. These patterns threaten the very fabric of our democracy and fundamentally shift the balance of political power in the halls of government towards the interests of whites, older citizens, and republicans. They illustrate that participation in the United States is strikingly unequal—far from the ideals that this country has long aspired to. Link to Paper Areas of focus Political Science Domestic Policy & Politics John Holbein John Holbein is an associate professor of public policy, politics, and education at the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Holbein studies political participation, political inequality, democratic accountability, political representation, and education policy. Read full bio Michael Barber Related Content John Holbein Civilian national service programs can powerfully increase youth voter turnout Research Enrolling young people to participate as Teach For America (TFA) teachers has a large positive effect on rates of voter turnout among those young people who participate. This effect is considerably larger than many previous efforts to increase youth voter turnout. After their 2 years of service, these young adults vote at a rate 5.7 to 8.6 percentage points higher than that of similar nonparticipant counterparts. These results suggest that civilian national service programs targeted at young people show great promise in narrowing the enduring participation gap between younger and older citizens in the United States. Are Americans less likely to reply to emails from Black people relative to White people? Research Although previous attempts have been made to measure everyday discrimination against African Americans, these approaches have been constrained by distinct methodological challenges. We present the results from an audit or correspondence study of a large-scale, nationally representative pool of the American public. We provide evidence that in simple day-to-day interactions, such as sending and responding to emails, the public discriminates against Black people. John Holbein Among UVA's Inaugural Shannon Fellows News Batten professor Holbein is one of 15 faculty members chosen for a new UVA fellowship program recognizing groundbreaking research and commitment to service at UVA. How gender, race, age and voter ID laws affect whether a voter actually casts a ballot News Young Americans say they are interested in politics, but few of them vote. Writing for The Conversation, Batten School professor John Holbein offers some ideas on how to encourage them.