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See Inside January/February 2012

Voter Turnout Is Tied to Sense of Identity

A certain turn of phrase brings out people's best civic selves



Mike Hipple/Aurora Photos

Boosting voter turnout could be as simple as making individuals see voting as part of who they are rather than as something they do. For the 2008 presidential election, the turnout rate was about 96 percent among registered voters who first filled out a survey asking “How important is it to you to be a voter?” compared with about 82 percent for those who were asked “How important is it to you to vote?” The study, led by Christopher Bryan of Stanford University, was recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. “We offered people the prospect of claiming a desirable identity,” Bryan says. “That’s a very powerful thing.”

This article was originally published with the title "Get Out the Vote."

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