Government and International Relations Honors Papers

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Mara Suttman-Lee

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The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps millions of Americans each year who struggle with food insecurity. For many, this is their primary interaction with the federal government. As such, this paper explores an under-examined area related to food insecurity and voter turnout. Utilizing a policy feedback framework, we examine the relationship between food insecurity, nutrition assistance, and political participation. We do this through an exploration of connections between food insecurity rates and aggregate voter turnout. We then examine SNAP administrative characteristics and implementation methods (top-down and bottom-up) with their relationships to reported voting rates. Through this exploration, we seek to answer two questions: Does food insecurity have an independent effect on aggregate turnout and registration rates? What is the relationship between SNAP administrative characteristics and the likelihood of voting?

I theorize that food insecurity is negatively connected with aggregate voter turnout, and that SNAP characteristics that make participation more accessible have a positive impact on voter turnout. More in-depth analysis in this area provides the opportunity to better understand which registration policy interventions and the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 (NVRA) implications were most effective at reaching food insecure citizens in the United States, and examines an underexplored area of policy feedback in American politics. The goal of this analysis is to develop new insight into the barriers related to voter turnout in the United States for vulnerable populations, such as those who are food insecure, and the impact of public assistance programs on engagement in politics. This will help identify effective policy solutions for increasing access to voting for food insecure citizens in the United States going forward.



The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.