Retrospective Voting Behavior in Local California School Board Elections
*Names in bold indicate Presenter
This project uses panel data from California school board elections, California public opinion surveys from the Public Policy Institute of California, the American Community Survey demographic statistics, and local school performance information, Achievement data was pulled from both the California STAR system, which has information on actual standardized test scores, as well as the API system, which has data on scores that are used in California’s school accountability policies. The public opinion surveys asked a representative sample several questions including an evaluation of the performance of one’s local schools. California school board election data is able to provide rich data on voter turnout and outcomes of elections. All of this data is available from 2000 to 2013. Using panel data allows us to account for many of the confounding characteristics of districts as well as election cycles that have made this kind of research difficult to interpret in the past.
Negative binomial regression was used for voter turnout estimates, while least squares regression was used for incumbent fortunes models. All models include district fixed effects and year fixed effects.
Preliminary results find that the largest significant associations between school performance and voter behavior were between lagged STAR scores and total voter turnout. We find little evidence that API scores influence voter turnout, nor was significant evidence found for gain scores. In addition, little evidence was found for any influences on incumbent fortunes. Significant results were found for all subgroups when looking at STAR data, but these results were only found for the association between lagged scores and voter turnout. This work provides some evidence that citizens do exhibit retrospective voting behavior in local school board elections, but that the evidence of retrospective voting patterns is limited. These findings have important implications for retrospective voting theory and for electoral accountability.