Who Votes for America's Mayors?

(Inactive) Institute of Portland Metropolitan Studies   (Portland)

July 2015

Funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, this study by the Population Research Center and the Center for Public Service at PSU examines the demographics of voters in local elections in 4 U.S. Cities: Charlotte, Detroit, Portland, and St. Paul. The study finds that

  • For the largest 30 cities, Mayoral contests from 2011-2014 attracted only 27 percent of registered voters, and 22 percent of the voting-eligible population;
  • Within the four pilot cities, registered voter turnout in local elections varied dramatically by census tract.
  • Voting desserts characterize large areas of the urban civic landscape.
  • Nearly a full generation separates those who cast ballots in local elections from those old enough to do so.
  • Seniors' electoral clout relative to younger registered voters is nearly 10 to 1.
  • While key socioeconomic (SES) factors clearly correlate with voting propensity, age (and sometimes race/ethnicity) matters a lot more.
  • Notable SES-related findings show intriguing differences between cities.


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