Promoting Voter Turnout: an Unanticipated Impact of Early-Childhood Preventive Interventions

This article was originally published here

Prev Sci. 2021 Jul 19. doi: 10.1007/s11121-021-01275-y. Online ahead of print.

ABSTRACT

Preventive interventions in early childhood have a range of behavioral and health effects. However, there is an emerging literature extending this work to include acts of civic engagement, such as voting. Given that America has one of the lowest and most disparate rates of voter turnout in the world-and most of the current efforts aimed at boosting voter turnout and making the electorate more representative of the general public are proximal to the voting experience-there is a need for a better understanding of the potential long-term impact of early-childhood programming on civic engagement in adulthood. This paper builds on theories of political socialization and prior research demonstrating significant impacts of the Fast Track preventive intervention on voter turnout to examine the extent to which there are positive impacts on voter participation for other evidence-based preventive interventions targeting children’s social and emotional capacities. Specifically, we leveraged data from a randomized controlled trial of the classroom-centered (CC) and the family school partnership (FSP) preventive interventions delivered in first grade. We analyzed data from approximately 700 urban, predominately African American, public school students who were randomly assigned to classrooms that either implemented (1) the classroom-centered intervention (which included the good behavior game), (2) the FSP intervention, or (3) the business as usual (i.e., control group). Data from the trial were combined with archival voter data when the youth were in their early 30s. Analyses demonstrated positive impacts of the CC preventive intervention on voter turnout more than two decades after exposure to the prevention program. Taken together, these findings provide additional evidence that some of the attributes that promote active participation in democracy can be fostered in early childhood-long before most interventions that have previously tried, and often failed, to increase voter turnout.

PMID:34279777 | DOI:10.1007/s11121-021-01275-y