PIPE* Workshop: R. Michael Alvarez, Caltech

The first goal of the PIPE program will be to hold a regular scholarly workshop, structured around external speakers, that will bring together USC faculty and graduate students from PriceGouldMarshallDornsife (the Political Science and Economics Departments) who have an interest in political institutions and political economy. The workshop will provide a regular forum for PIPE scholarship and create an environment for new collaborations to develop.

On Feb 6, 2018, R. Michael Alvarez presented a paper on the residual vote increase during the 2016 Presidential Election. Alvarez is a political science professor at California Institute of Technology.

Nearly 2% of voters who went to the polls in 2016 failed to cast a vote for president. This 2% “residual vote rate” is nearly double the rate in the presidential elections from 2004–2012.

Did the increased fraction of voters who chose to abstain do so because of alienation from the major-party candidates? Even if abstention-due-to-alienation is the sole explanation for the increase in the residual vote rate in 2016, the question remains, “Who abstained?” Never Trumpers? Bernie Bros?

The analysis in this paper relies on a combination of public opinion data and election returns to address these issues. Empirically, we find that the increase in abstentions in 2016 was most likely due to disaffected Republicans. Our findings have implications for understanding how voters react in the face of unattractive candidate choices as well as how election administration interacts with voter behavior.