Note to Wisconsin Governor: Research Shows Petition Signers Vote


  • newswise-fullscreen Note to Wisconsin Governor: Research Shows Petition Signers Vote

    Credit: Russell Cothren, University of Arkansas

    Janine Parry, professor of political science, University of Arkansas

Newswise — FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Political scientist Janine Parry is available to discuss her research on the voting behavior of petition signers as it applies to the Wisconsin recall election. Her research suggests that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker faces a tough time in the June special election, given that the 1 million signers of the recall petition are more likely to show up at the polls.

“Not only does recall history generally suggest that the governor’s odds of surviving a special election are low, but our study demonstrates that the people who signed the petitions and who become uncharacteristically motivated may well drive his ouster,” Parry said.

Research by Parry and colleagues shows that the probability of voter turnout is higher for voters who sign a petition, from inactive voters to those who vote in every election. Petition signing has the greatest effect on irregular voters and on voters in off-cycle elections, such as the Wisconsin recall election. In fact, infrequent voters who signed a petition were sometimes as much as 20 percentage points more likely to turn up at the polls compared to those who did not sign a petition.

“The magnitude of the effects was most surprising and unexpected for voters with the spottiest records,” Parry said. “Having a 20 point increase in anything in social science is pretty amazing.”

Parry is a professor of political science at the University of Arkansas and director of the annual Arkansas Poll. For the petition-signing research, she teamed up with Daniel Smith of the University of Florida and Shayne Henry, then an Honors College student at the University of Arkansas and now a law student at the University of California, Berkeley.

Their study, “The Impact of Petition Signing on Voter Impact,” appears in the March 2012 issue of Political Behavior.

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