An Informed Electorate: The Relationship Between the Standardization of Public Education and Voter Participation
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This exploratory investigation examined the relationship between states' educational standardization and voter turnout, using cultural and critical theory lenses. The study documented the problem of low voter participation and current education standardization policies. The study used a complementarity mixed-methods design with sequential quantitative and qualitative components. The quantitative component developed a tool for measuring states' levels of educational standardization, the Standardized Education Index (SEI). Data for voter age population (VAP) and voter eligible population (VEP) in state presidential elections between 2000 and 2012 were used as measures of voter turnout. A weak correlation was found between the SEI and voter turnout for VEP in 2000 and VAP in 2000, 2004, and 2008, with between 6% and 14% of variability explained. While no evidence of a positive relationship between higher levels of SEI and higher voter turnout was found, no counter argument could be established either. The qualitative component utilized case studies of exemplars of states with high SEI/low voter turnout and high SEI/low voter turnout, which were Arkansas and New Hampshire, respectively. Investigated elements were educational Administrative Rules, voting regulations, and cultural/geographic and demographic attributes. Data were compiled and compared. A binary sort, a Dichotomous Sort of Accountability Concepts, framed the critical analysis of educational standards data. Arkansas was found to be a location of standardized education and restrictive voting regulations. New Hampshire was a location of more differentiated education supporting civic engagement with easier access to voting. This study's results are a baseline for further investigation of the relationship of educational standardization to voter participation. If standards based reform has a positive effect on voter participation, then future correlation analysis will produce a moderate to strong positive relationship. If the relationship remains negative, then it will provide evidence that standards reform does not engender an informed electorate.