Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2018

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

First Advisor

Jennifer Fitzgerald

Second Advisor

Andy Baker

Third Advisor

James R. Scarritt

Fourth Advisor

Joseph Jupille

Fifth Advisor

Paul Hammer


What causes variation in the turnout of an individual from election to election? Most individual level predictors of turnout can account for the propensity of an individual to vote but fail to account for changes in turnout behavior. Broad aggregate factors can account for variation in turnout trends from election to election but fail to account for changes in turnout at the individual level. In this dissertation I argue that civic duty can capture the variation that typical predictors of voter turnout cannot. Civic duty can account for variation in the turnout of high and low propensity voters, as well as distinguish why some groups turnout in one election and other groups turnout in another. The capacity of civic duty to capture such variation comes from the sensitivity of civic duty to the saliency of identities and the competing group concerns they generate. Civic duty motivates an individual to vote due to a sense of obligation that is generated by multiple group identities, with these identities either complementing each other and enhancing a sense of civic duty or conflicting with each other and diminishing such a sense. I apply and test such theory using the case of the 2017 British general election. With this case I find that civic duty can uniquely capture a sense of European identity, as well as the variation in salience of such identity that can account for the highly unexpected turnout of Millennials in 2017.