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Neighborhoods that Matter: How Place and People Affect Political Participation

  • Author(s): LeVan, Carrie Ann
  • Advisor(s): Zaller, John R
  • et al.

In this dissertation, I argue that features of neighborhood design that promote social interaction also promote political participation. I call this the Place and People Model of Political Participation. The dissertation’s key breakthrough is to measure the physical features of neighborhoods—whether homes have porches, streets are tree-lined, neighborhoods have natural gathering places—for a sample of respondents in a nationally representative survey. With this data, I demonstrate that the design of residential places promotes neighborly exchanges that subsequently help increase individual political participation. I show that place and people work together to influence individual engagement in multiple forms of participation, like voting, attending a march/boycott, joining a political group, and volunteering in a community project. I further demonstrate that the effects of neighborhoods and neighbors on participation hold for all people regardless of race, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. All of which goes to show the critical role that place and people play in influencing individual political behavior.

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