Date of Completion


Embargo Period



means-tested government assistance, voting decisions, social work, empowerment, political inequality

Major Advisor

Nancy A. Humphreys

Associate Advisor

Cristina Wilson

Associate Advisor

Thomas Hayes

Field of Study

Social Work


Doctor of Philosophy

Open Access

Open Access


This qualitative study explored how recipients of means-tested government assistance programs, who are enrolled in community colleges, make decisions about voting, and how structural factors affect their decision to vote. It used a grounded theory approach to generate knowledge about why some recipients of means-tested assistance vote and others choose not to vote. The qualitative design provided the framework to unpack motivations for voting or not. There have been no social work studies on this topic, and few political science studies have been conducted using qualitative data.

Several major findings were discovered in this study. Distinct voter types emerged of dedicated voters, voters, dedicated nonvoters, and nonvoters. Each voter type makes decisions about voting and not voting based on different criteria. Dedicated voters and dedicated nonvoters are thoughtful in their voting decision making, and are aware of the relationship between electoral politics and means-tested government assistance. In other words, they make informed voting decisions. Voters and nonvoters are less thoughtful and less aware of this relationship and do not make informed voting decisions. Analysis of these voter types allowed for the differentiation between the sub-processes related to empowerment. Implications are important to social work to inform consideration of how to promote effective voting by recipients of means-tested government programs. Because each voter type bases their decision making about voting on different factors, a variety of interventions are needed to encourage informed voting by all.