Research Articles, Books, Videos and Podcasts

The Voter Mobilization Campaign is built on Social Work’s core values and code of ethics. It is guided by evidence showing positive effects of voting, voter engagement and voter turnout on individuals and communities.  If you have an article or resource that you would like to include, please send it to us at info@votingissocialwork.org

Find below a list of articles, books and other media resources on important topics related to voting and civic engagement.

Voting Rights Videos and Documentaries

Documentary: American Issues Initiative. (2020). RIGGED: The Voter Suppression Playbook.

The American Issues Initiative has a simple charge: to inform and educate the American public about the pressing issues of our day – from criminal justice to education to the challenges of maintaining the vibrancy of our democracy.

Film: Big Sky Film Productions. (2018). Dark Money.

DARK MONEY, a political thriller, examines one of the greatest present threats to American democracy: the influence of untraceable corporate money on our elections and elected officials. DARK MONEY is available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.

Documentary: Brave New Films. (2015-2019) Following their lead: Youth in action.

Spotlights youth-led advocacy groups across the country who are creating positive change on critical social and political issues.

Documentary: Brave New Films. (2020). Suppressed 2020: The Fight to Vote 

Suppressed 2020: The Fight To Vote by Robert Greenwald (Director of Outfoxed, Walmart: The High Cost of Low Price, and Making A Killing: Guns Greed and the NRA) is a short, powerful documentary about the growing threat of voter suppression to our 2020 election. 

Video: NBC News Signal. (5 November, 2018). Factory of lies: Democracy under attack.

Americans elected Donald Trump president after a bruising campaign mired by disinformation online and suspicious hacks. We now know the Russian government interfered in the elections by manipulating social media in a bold attempt to influence the vote. The Russian tactics may have been new, but their propaganda playbook is age-old. The NBC News Business, Tech and Media team recounts what happened in 2016 and sheds light on what it means for our democracy going forward.

Documentary: Palast, G. (2018). The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election.

The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: The Case of the Stolen Election is especially created for university, school and church screenings. And, thanks to support from the Goodman and Puffin Foundations and the Rev. Jesse Jackson, we offer the film to schools and churches without charge.  

Documentary: Vusi Filmworks. (2019). Let My People Vote.

This is the story of one man, Desmond Meade, trying to get voting rights back for all. Filmed in Tampa, 2 days before the 2016 presidential election, this verité short covers a day-in-the-life of civil rights activist, Desmond Meade.

Video: YelloPain. (2020). My Vote Dont Count

Contemporary version of school house rock explaining the branches of government, importance of voting and civic engagement.

Benefits of Civic Engagement

Article: Ballard, P., Hoyt, L., & Pachucki, M. (2018). Impacts of adolescent and young adult civic engagement on health and socioeconomic status in adulthood. Child Development, pg. 1-17.

Ballard, Hoyt and Pachucki examine the relationship between civic engagement (voting, volunteering, and activism) during late adolescence/early adulthood and socioeconomic status and mental and physical health in adulthood. The findings indicate that all forms of civic engagement are positively associated with high income and high educational achievement, while solely voting and volunteering are favorable associated with mental health outcomes.

Article: Kansas Health Foundation. (2016). Kansas civic health index.

The Kansas Health Foundation provides a comprehensive analysis of civic engagement and health in Kansas. Differing levels of engagement were correlated with income and education level, as well as racial/ethnic backgrounds. The report found positive association between voter engagement and favorable health outcomes. Recommendations for  stake holders for increasing democratic participation, building advocacy capacity, and leveraging news media are provided

Article: Klar, M., & Kasser, T. (2009). Some benefits of being an activist: Measuring activism and its role in psychological well-being. Political Psychology, 30 (5), 755- 777.

Klar and Kasser provide summaries of two studies examining the relationship between political activism and happiness. One study found significant measures of  hedonic, eudaimonic, social well-being, and “flourishing” for activists, relative to non-activists. In a separate study, a possible casual relationship was explored between activism and well-being.  Participants who engaged in a brief activist behavior reported higher levels of subjective vitality than those who engaged in non-activist behavior.

Article: Martin, P. S. (2003). Voting’s rewards: Voter turnout, attentive publics, and congressional allocation of federal money. American Journal of Political Science, 47(1), 110-127.

Martin attempts to empirically demonstrate the political and financial rewards for political participation through voting by means of congressional allocation of funds to strategically target districts that provide the best returns in votes.

Article: National Conference on Citizenship. (2011) Civic health and unemployment: Can engagement strengthen the economy?

The National Conference on Citizenship (NCoC) believes engagement might influence economic stability; particularly, concerning unemployment. The NCoC is a non-partisan nonprofit that works to discover what shapes citizenry and what motivates citizens to increase their political involvement. Ultimately, focusing the results of such discovery to encourage further research and spark conversation about the impacts engagement might have on civic health and vitality throughout the United States.

Podcast: New Hampshire Public Radio. Civics 101 Podcast.

Civics 101 is the podcast refresher course on the basics of how our democracy works.

Article: Sanders, L. M. (August 30-September 2, 2001). The psychological benefits of political participation. In Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association:  San Francisco.

Sanders examines the psychological benefits of political participation. Four hypotheses were posited and tested: that involvement in volunteer activities reduces subsequent psychological distress, that resisting perceived discrimination does, that the benefits of political involvement are more pronounced for respondents prone to psychological distress, and that any observed benefits of political involvement are attributable to a psychological trait. Findings suggest that participation alleviates psychological distress, which might offset some of the negative mental health consequences associated with disadvantaged social status.

Voter Engagement and Social Work

Article: Abramovitz, M., Sherraden, M., Hill, K., Rhodes Smith, T., Lewis, B., & Mizrahi, T. (2019). Voting is social work: Voices from the National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign. Journal of Social Work Education.

Abramovitz et al. surveyed 800 social workers’ and social work students’ self-reported voter engagement activities, with distinction made between school-based and agency-based social workers. The findings highlight the need to incorporate voter engagement practices into social work education curriculum.

Article: Barsky, A. (2020). Ethics alive! elections in light of social work values. The New Social Worker. 

Barsky explores how the six core values of social work, as named by the National Association of Social Workers, can be used to inform social workers' participation on the electoral process.

Podcast: Columbia School of Social Work. (5 July, 2020). Social Work Votes: Where Did We Begin? 

In this episode of Social Work Votes, we speak to Mimi Abramovitz, a co-leader of the Voting is Social Work campaign. We head to where the campaign all started and ask whether Mimi had any push back for her initiative. 

Video: Hara, R. (27, November 2019). Social impact live: Join the campaign to get out the vote with Mimi Abramovitz.

Prof. Mimi Abramovitz discusses the Voting is Social Work campaign and how social workers are uniquely positioned to help get out the vote in the 2020 election.

Podcast: Columbia School of Social Work. (5 July, 2020). Social Work Votes: Where Did We Begin? 

In this episode of Social Work Votes, we speak to Mimi Abramovitz, a co-leader of the Voting is Social Work campaign. We head to where the campaign all started and ask whether Mimi had any push back for her initiative.  

Article: Hardina, D. (2003). What Social Workers Need to Know About the Right to Vote. The Social Policy Journal, 2:4, 53-70.

Hardina examines barriers to full voter participation for disenfranchised groups, with strategies for social workers to support enfranchisement of these groups. Strategies include voter registration, voter education, voter mobilization, and support for legislation that improves voting access.

Article: Hylton, M., Rhodes Smith, T., Powers, J., Ostrander, J. & Lane, S.R. (2018). The Power of Three: Infusing voter engagement in lower level BSW courses.  Journal of Baccalaureate Social Work.

Hylton et al. discuss a method for engaging BSW students in voter registration by assigning students to register a minimum of three people to vote. Findings indicate that this strategy was effective in increasing student involvement in various voter engagement activities, as well as their understanding of the importance of voting to social work.

Article: Lane, S. R., Hill, K., Ostrander, J., Powers, J., Rhodes Smith, T., & Hylton, M. E. (2020). Creating a culture of voting in direct and generalist practice: Training field instructors. Advances in Social Work. 19(1), 86-105. |

Lane et al. evaluate the implementation of nonpartisan voter engagement training in social work education.  The authors make the case that voter engagement is an ethical responsibility for social workers and present a model for training field instructors in nonpartisan voter engagement. Findings indicate that undergoing such training increases the likelihood of field instructors acting as resources for workers’ voter engagement efforts, and are more likely to consider voter engagement as part of their own practice.

Article: Lane, S.R., Humphreys, N.A., Graham, E., Matthews, N. & Moriarty, J. (2007). Voter registration: Empowering clients through agency-based voter registration. Journal of Policy Practice, 6(4), 79-94.

Lane et al. describe the implementation and outcomes of an agency-based voter registration project of the University of Connecticut School of Social Work, Nancy A. Humphrey’s Institute for Political Social Work as a means of empowering disempowered and disenfranchised clients.

Book: Lane, S.R. & Pritzker, S. (2018). Political social work: Using power to create social change. New York, NY: Springer International.

Prepares social workers and social work students to impact political action and subsequent policy, with a detailed real-world framework for turning ideas into concrete goals and strategies for effecting change.

Article: Mizrahi, T. & Abramovitz, M. (2018). Voting is social work: Voter empowerment and the national social work voter mobilization campaign. The New Social Worker. 

The authors make the case for the vital role social workers play in making voting accessible to their client base. Identifies reasons given by agencies for declining to participate in voter mobilization efforts and promotes ways for social workers to work for the rights of disenfranchised voters.

Podcast: National Association of Social Workers. (19 June, 2018). Episode 9: Social workers and advocacy.

In this episode, we speak with Heidi McIntosh, Deputy Director of Programs at NASW; and Julie E. Shroyer, MSW, Senior Policy Advisor at Polsinelli, a top law firm in Washington, DC. We talk about the skills that social workers bring to the table, the importance of social workers participating in the 2018 mid-term elections; and the challenges of advocating for the disadvantaged in the current political environment.

Article: Pritzker, S.R. & Lane, S.R. (2017). Commentary: Political social work: History, forms and opportunities for innovationSocial Work, 62(1), 80-82 (special issue on Civil Rights and Social Justice)

Pritzker and Lane provide an account of the ways in which individual social worker’s political involvement has shaped the profession, with particular focus on the evolution of the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) adoption of social and political action into the code of ethics

Voter Turnout and Changing Demographics

Video: Atlantic Magazine (10 June, 2016).  Why Virginia's restoration of voting rights matters.

Article: Behrens, A., Uggen, C., & Manza, J. (2003). Ballot manipulation and the "menace of negro domination": Racial threat and felon disenfranchisement in the United States, 1850-2002. American Journal of Sociology, 109(3), 559-605.

Behrens et al. provide an analysis of the history of state felon disenfranchisement provisions. Findings indicate that districts with prison populations largely comprised of people of color are more likely to pass restrictive voting  laws. States with higher proportions of people of color in both the general and prison populations may be less likely to adopt re-enfranchisement reforms that allow those convicted of a felony to vote.

Book: Berman, Ari. (2015) Give us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America. New York, NY: Picador, Ferrar, Straus & Giroux.

Charts both the transformation of American democracy under the Voting Rights Act and the counterrevolution that has sought to limit it from the moment the act was signed into law. The VRA is widely regarded as the crowning achievement of the civil rights movement, and yet―more than fifty years later―the battles over race, representation, and political power continue, as lawmakers devise new strategies to keep minorities out of the voting booth.

Article: Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement. (2011). Civic engagement among registered citizens and non-registered eligible citizens.

CIRCLE provides a summary of a national survey of 18-25 year-olds’ electoral preferences and voter registration access for the 2020 presidential election. Relative to surveys conducted in ‘16 and ‘18, a higher percentage of youth believe they have political impact, have engaged in protests and/or activism, and have engaged in voter turnout activities. A majority prefers Biden to Trump, with nearly 20% of youth preferring neither candidate. The survey results raise concerns about youth access to information on mail-in and online voting and the possibility that misinformation may impact youth ability to register and vote during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Podcast: Decarceration Nation. (2020)

A podcast about radically re-imagining America's criminal justice system.

Video: Duane de la Vega, K. and Anthony, J. (30 September, 2016). Supreme court v. the American voter. NY Times.

The NY Times examines changes to the Voting Rights Act.

Article: Florida Parole Commission ( 2011). Status update: Restoration of civil rights cases granted 2009 and 2010.

The Florida Parole Commission reported on a study of recidivism rates for formerly incarcerated people who had their voting rights restored in 2009/2010. Conclusively, 11% were found to have reoffended, with 59% of that group returned to community supervision, and 41% given a prison sentence.

Article: Hohmann, J. (2018, July 27). The Daily 202: Puerto Ricans who fled to Florida after Hurricane Maria are not registering to vote. This article may be subject to a paywall.

Florida voter registration records reveal that despite the influx of more than 100,000 Puerto Ricans who migrated post-Hurricane Maria, voter registrations have not increased. One local representative of Puerto Rican descent contributes the lack of political interest to newcomers focusing on meeting basic needs, as well as a lack of political education geared towards informing them of the electoral process in Florida.

Article: Kitschelt, H. P. & Rehm, P. (2019). Secular partisan realignment in the United States: The socioeconomic reconfiguration of white partisan support since the New Deal era. Politics & Society, 47(3), 425-479.

Kitschelt and Rehm provide an analysis of shifting White partisan support in US elections looking at the intersection of race, education, and income. The authors posit that understanding the realignment of white voters with either the Republican or Democratic party must take into account the preferences of not only low education/low income (white working class) and high education/high income (global finance professional caste) voters, but also those of high education/low to medium income (urban bohemian bourgeois) and low education/high income (petty bourgeoisie) voters.

Book: Leighley, J.E., & Nagler, J. (2013). Who votes now?: Demographics, issues, inequality, and turnout in the United States. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Compares the demographic characteristics and political views of voters and nonvoters in American presidential elections since 1972 and examines how electoral reforms and the choices offered by candidates influence voter turnout.

Book: Piven, F. F., & Cloward, R. A. (2000). Why Americans Still Don’t Vote and Why Politicians Want it That Way. Boston: Beacon Press

Analyzes the results of voter registration reform, and draws compelling historical parallels to reveal why neither of the major parties has tried to appeal to the interests of the newly registered-and thus why Americans still don't vote. A follow up to Why Americans Don't Vote, first published in 1988. It demonstrated that the twentieth century had witnessed a concerted effort to restrict voting by immigrants and blacks through a combination of poll taxes, literacy tests, and unwieldy voter registration requirements.

Book: Rolfe, M. (2013). Voter turn-out: A social theory of political participation. New York, NY: Cambridge University Press.

Develops and empirically tests a social theory of political participation. It overturns prior understandings of why some people (such as college-degree holders, churchgoers, and citizens in national rather than local elections) vote more often than others. The book shows that the standard demographic variables are not proxies for variation in the individual costs and benefits of participation, but for systematic variation in the patterns of social ties between potential voters.

Article: Uggen, C., Larson, R., & Shannon, S. (2016, October 6th). 6 million lost voters: State-level estimates of felony disenfranchisement, 2016.

Uggen, Larson and Shannon bring to light concerns related to voting restrictions; especially, restriction that are imposed on disenfranchised felons and their results as of the November of 2016. The article also offers information about recent changes experienced by disenfranchised voters and the restoration of disenfranchised civil rights.