American Political Science Review

Becoming a Habitual Voter: Inertia, Resources, and Growth in Young Adulthood

a1 Associate Professor of Political Science and Sociology, Department of Political Science, 107 Burrowes Building, The Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16802 (


This paper reframes our inquiry into voter turnout by making aging the lens through which the traditional resource and cost measures of previous turnout research are viewed, thereby making three related contributions. (1) I offer a developmental theory of turnout. This framework follows from the observation that most citizens are habitual voters or habitual nonvoters (they display inertia). Most young citizens start their political lives as habitual nonvoters but they vary in how long it takes to develop into habitual voters. With this transition at the core of the framework, previous findings concerning costs and resources can easily be integrated into developmental theory. (2) I make a methodological contribution by applying latent growth curve models to panel data. (3) Finally, the empirical analyses provide the developmental theory with strong support and also provide a better understanding of the roles of aging, parenthood, partisanship, and geographic mobility.