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Journal Article

Assortative mating and turnout: a self-reinforcing pattern of unequal voting participation


Publication date

May 2020


Previous research finds that privileged citizens have more influence on democratic decisions than less advantaged citizens. One explanation put forward is unequal voting participation between socioeconomic groups. This paper contributes by studying how such inequalities are reproduced in couple formation. It sets out to answer two questions using British panel data. First, to what extent does assortative mating vs social influence account for correspondence in turnout behavior of couples? Second, does assortative mating and social influence contribute to social inequalities in turnout? The results show that the relationship between living with a partner and turnout is highly dependent on the voting participation of the partner, and that, regardless of individuals’ own previous voting participation, individuals with higher socioeconomic status are more likely to enter relationships with potential voters. The unequal selection into relationships with voters and nonvoters shows that unequal voting participation between socioeconomic groups can be self-reinforcing through assortative mating.

Published in

European Political Science Review

Volume and page numbers

12 , 155 -171





Politics, Social Groups, Elections. Electoral Behaviour, Family Formation And Dissolution, Social Stratification, Social Behaviour, Sociology Of Households, and Social Psychology


Open Access; © European Consortium for Political Research 2020; This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


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