Warm Glow from Voting vs. Direct Costs: Evidence from the 2020 Election, Black Lives Matter Protests, and Mail-in Balloting
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CitationMohnot, Dhruv. 2021. Warm Glow from Voting vs. Direct Costs: Evidence from the 2020 Election, Black Lives Matter Protests, and Mail-in Balloting. Bachelor's thesis, Harvard College.
AbstractThe 2020 General Election was idiosyncratic in many ways: COVID-19 was spreading across the nation, racial justice protests were a top issue, and mail-in balloting access was considerably expanded. Theory suggests that agents vote when direct benefits of voting exceed costs. Theoretically, Black Lives Matter protests increased social benefits of voting while mail-in balloting reduced costs, leading to higher turnout. This paper analyzes the effect of protests and mail-in balloting on voting outcomes (turnout and margin) using two quasi-experimental research designs, finding precisely estimated effects for both events. Using June rainfall as an instrumental variable, I estimate the effect of the 2020 protests on the presidential election outcome at the county level. Results indicate that the median protest increased predicted Republican margin by 0.019 percentage points and predicted turnout by 0.113 percentage points, robust to many specifications and sets of controls. Using a difference-in-difference approach to estimate the effect of moving to universal mail-in balloting yields much larger effect sizes: Republican margin increased by 0.45 percentage points and turnout by 2.52 percentage points, driven primarily by increased voting among older populations. Black Lives Matter protests appear to have limited effect—though they galvanized opposition voters more than supporters—while mail-in balloting greatly increased turnout. Neither of these features are likely to have affected the outcome of the 2020 election; though they both contributed to the increased turnout, they only explain 9% (upper bound 17%) of the overall increase.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368557
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