A Quantitative Analysis: Effects of Right-to-Work Laws & Union Density on Voter Participation in the United States, 1972 to 2012
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The societal effects of governmental labor policies have broad implications for our lives and reach far beyond economics, into virtually all areas of our communities. In this paper I have sought to better understand and estimate specifically, the potential political effects of state level Right-to-Work (RTW) Laws, by quantitatively estimating their predictive power over voter turnout levels across the United States, during the period between 1972 and 2012. My expectation is that states with RTW laws in place will have experienced lower voter turnout once those laws are enacted. Another factor, which is positively correlated with voter turnout, is union density. It can be difficult to separate which factors produce certain outcomes or trends. My objective is to determine if RTW laws have an effect, independent of that union density. However, I am not seeking to prove causality, which is beyond the scope of this project. The statistical tests performed in this analysis are linear regressions. The key findings from the data tell us that, while strong state fixed effects control for much of the variance, there remains some statistically significant evidence that RTW laws have at least a short-term negative effect on voter turnout, even when controlling for union density, among other factors, at a rate of nearly -1.5%. This figure may seem small but considering the close margins that are often the difference between a win and loss in many paramount political races, it is not insignificant. When faced with such immense and consequential policy decisions such as labor and civil rights laws, it is critically important that we as constituents, as well as our elected leaders, carefully and continually scrutinize laws which may be unequally or unconstitutionally effecting our communities and lives.
- MA in Policy Studies