What is it about?

Well established in the literature is that social context, like the racial or partisan composition of neighborhoods, affects individual political behavior. Less understood is how the design of neighborhoods may also influence these behaviors. Using a nationally representative survey with measures of the frequency of neighbor interaction and individual voter turnout and to which I merged respondents’ census tract information and then used Google Maps images to code respondents’ neighborhood design features, I show how the physical structure of residential places—whether homes have porches, streets are tree-lined, neighborhoods have natural gathering places—promotes neighborly exchanges that subsequently affect individual voter turnout.

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Why is it important?

My study makes three contributions. First, the findings contribute to the literature by expanding how we conceptualize contextual effects to include the built environment. Second, it improves how design is measured by using an innovative method to code neighborhood features. Finally, the findings demonstrate that neighborhood design affects voter turnout through the mediator of neighborly contact. Overall, my findings show that neighborhood design does have a direct effect on neighbor-to-neighbor interactions and that these neighborly contacts matter, because they affect voter turnout.


Writing this article helped me to really think about how the places where we live impact the daily paths we travel, and how these paths then impact our ability to build connections with the people who live around us. When deciding on where to live, I definitely looked for a neighborhood that had more "interactive" features.

Carrie LeVan
Colby College

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Neighborhoods That Matter: How Place and People Affect Political Participation, American Politics Research, May 2019, SAGE Publications,
DOI: 10.1177/1532673x19852370.
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