Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science

First Advisor

Dr. J. Kevin Corder

Second Advisor

Dr. John A. Clark

Third Advisor

Dr. Peter W. Wielhouwer


Abstention, alienation, indifference, United States. nonvoting

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


Abstention rates have remained quite high in the United States for the last several decades. This thesis explores the trends in and origins of the nonvoters from 1968 to 2012 using a statistical model of abstention in presidential elections. The objective is to determine why nonvoters have chosen to abstain and who are they?

Using data from the American National Elections Studies, four groups of nonvoters are identified – voters who are both alienated and indifferent, voters who are neither alienated nor indifference, voters who are only alienated, and voters who are only indifferent. The two groups exclusively analyzed are the two largest groups of nonvoters: the mixed group (both alienated/estranged and indifferent) and the neither group.

The groups' aggregate responses will be regressed using two set of criteria: first, using an internal efficacy index and an external efficacy index, and second, a series of demographics. Mixed group nonvoters share a lower sense of internal efficacy and are more nonpartisan than the rest of the abstained population. Nonvoters of the neither group, on the other hand, share a higher sense of internal efficacy and are more partisan. The neither group nonvoters are also more likely to be poorer, which challenges conclusions made by scholars studying abstention in the 1960s.