Changes in the World Economy and the Effect on Labor Unions and Related Voter Turnout and Representation

Source: Chris Finn, Western Political Science Association 2010 Annual Meeting Paper

From the abstract:
The changes in the world economy over the last several decades have substantially altered the landscape for organized labor. This paper examines the role of unions in turnout and vote choice for the most marginalized communities. It also contributes to the dialogues on whether voters are representative of non-voters and whether turnout matters. Gray and Caul demonstrated that decreasing labor union density and the distancing of labor parties from organized labor has played a significant part in producing the drop in turnout across western industrialized democracies. The effect is greatest for those that traditional models would least expect to vote – those with the lowest education and income levels. In the last several decades, the demographics of union membership have shifted toward those with less education and income, and have included a higher proportion of immigrants and marginalized populations. Hajnal and Trounstine report that, at least in city elections, “lower turnout leads to substantial reductions in the representation of Latinos and Asian Americans.” Initial results from the present study confirm that union membership has a significant effect on vote choice, controlling for both ideology and party identification. The recent demographic shifts in union composition and density, therefore, combined with the increased turnout among union households, should have a countervailing effect on turnout, vote choice, and representation.

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