Jan Leighley

Professor of Government, American University

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About Jan

Leighley’s research and teaching interests focus on voter turnout, racial/ethnic political behavior, and media/public opinion and representation. Her research on voter turnout has focused on demographic variations in voting and how electoral rules influence these variations. She is also interested in how individuals’ social networks and access to media influence their political engagement.


Unequal Voter Turnout in U.S. Presidential Elections

  • Jonathan Nagler

No Jargon Podcast

In the News

Jan Leighley quoted on unequal voter turnout in U.S. elections by Leanna Garfield, "Here's Who Would Win the Election if Every American Voted" Business Insider, November 7, 2016.
"Same-Day Registration and Increased Absentee Voting Would Help," Jan Leighley (with Jonathan Nagler), The Opinion Pages, New York Times, October, 2016.
Jan Leighley quoted on the political views of voters and non-voters by Benjamin Wallace-Wells, "Sanders, Trump, and the Rise of the Non-Voters" The New Yorker, April 1, 2016.
Jan Leighley quoted on exit poll data by Jeff Stein, "Can Bernie Sanders Build a New Coalition of Low-Income Voters? 6 Experts Weigh In." Vox, February 12, 2016.
Jan Leighley quoted on the demographic characteristics and political views of voters and nonvoters by Sean McElwee, "The Economy is a Democrat: Why Recent History Shows the Value of a Progressive President" Salon, March 28, 2015.
Jan Leighley's research on the decline in unions and the rising class bias in voter turnout discussed by Sean McElwee, "One Big Reason for Voter Turnout Decline and Income Inequality: Smaller Unions," American Prospect, January 30, 2015.
Jan Leighley's research on the gap between voters and nonvoters concerning class discussed by Sean McElwee, "The Income Gap at the Polls," Politico, January 7, 2015.
Jan Leighley's research on the effects of union membership on voter turnout discussed by Sean McElwee, "5 Reasons Politics Doesn’t Fix Inequality," Vox, August 31, 2014.
Jan Leighley's research on the differences between voters and nonvoters discussed by "The Robin Hood Trap," The Economist, January 11, 2014.
Jan Leighley's research on voter turnout patterns discussed by Dan Balz, "What Voter Turnout Means for Efforts to Remedy Income Inequality," The Washington Post, January 4, 2014.


Who Votes Now? Demographics, Issues, Inequality, and Turnout in the United States (with Jonathan Nagler) (Princeton University Press, 2013).

Compares the demographic characteristics and political views of voters and nonvoters in American presidential elections since 1972 and examines how electoral reforms and the choices offered by candidates influence voter turnout.

"Participation, Online and Otherwise: What’s the Difference for Policy Preferences?" (with Jennifer Oser and Kenneth M. Winneg). Social Science Quarterly 95, no. 5 (2014): 1259-77.
Presents evidence regarding the policy preferences of non-voters and those who participate in different types of activities, including new forms of online activism. Discusses important differences on key issues during the 2008 presidential election, arguing that the preferences of voters are not necessarily those of other citizens who are engaged in other ways.
"Unions, Voter Turnout and Class Bias in the Electorate, 1964-2004" (with Jonathan Nagler). Journal of Politics 69, no. 2 (2007): 430-441.
Provides evidence of the importance of unions in mobilizing the turnout of both members and nonmembers in U.S. presidential elections. Also shows that the mobilizing effects of unions are greater for low- and middle-income individuals than for high-income individuals.
Strength in Numbers? The Political Mobilization of Racial and Ethnic Minorities (Princeton University Press, 2001).
Examines the demographic and contextual correlates of citizen participation beyond voting, emphasizing the importance of minority group size, elite mobilization and perceptions of discrimination and how they differentially influence the behavior of African-Americans and Latinos.