University of Arkansas, Fayetteville


“Know Thy Neighbor,” a public interest group established in 2005, has grabbed headlines in recent years for making public (or threatening to make public) the names of hundreds of thousands of registered voters who signed petitions qualifying anti-gay rights measures for state general election ballots in Massachusetts, Florida, Arkansas, Oregon, and Washington. These names, together with the mailing addresses, birthdates, and dates of signature for each signer, have long been public information in most states, but never before have they been put into a format (i.e., searchable, online databases) making them easy to access and analyze. In this pilot project, I perform multivariate analysis on a random sample of 500 registered Arkansas voters to determine the relative role of petition signing (versus vote history and age) in spurring voter turnout. This unique dataset allows an analysis, at the level of the individual voter, of the effectiveness of a relatively new tactic in American politics: using ballot measures to stimulate turnout for up-ticket candidate races. In the current study, while there was a correlation between petition signing and voter turnout, at the level of multivariate analysis, petition signing did not appear to be associated with voter turnout. However, individuals who signed petitions tended to have strong voting histories and were more likely than non-signers to cast ballots in the 2008 general election. The results of this research add to the already robust literature analyzing voter turnout in US political elections.