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Election frequency, choice fatigue, and voter turnout

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  • Garmann, Sebastian

Abstract

Influential scholars have argued that frequent elections lead to voter fatigue and can therefore be directly responsible for low turnout in countries characterized by frequent contests. However, other theories predict that frequent elections can even increase turnout. The existing empirical evidence is problematic as it simply correlates election frequency with turnout. By contrast, I exploit a natural experiment in the German state of Hesse, where voters from different municipalities faced the same electoral contest but experienced different election frequency, due to the staggered timing of some local elections. I find that when two elections are scheduled within a relatively short period of time, voter turnout at the later election is significantly reduced. This effect is stronger when the election is deemed less important in the eyes of the voters. Election frequency thus might also partly explain the wide turnout gap between first- and second-order elections, as suggested by Lijphart (1997).

Suggested Citation

  • Garmann, Sebastian, 2017. "Election frequency, choice fatigue, and voter turnout," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 19-35.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:poleco:v:47:y:2017:i:c:p:19-35
    DOI: 10.1016/j.ejpoleco.2016.12.003
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Cantoni, Enrico & Gazzè, Ludovica & Schafer, Jerome, 2021. "Turnout in Concurrent Elections : Evidence from Two Quasi-Experiments in Italy," The Warwick Economics Research Paper Series (TWERPS) 1343, University of Warwick, Department of Economics.
    2. Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2019. "Are voters rational?," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 230-242.
    3. Stutzer, Alois & Baltensperger, Michael & Meier, Armando N., 2019. "Overstrained citizens? The number of ballot propositions and the quality of the decision process in direct democracy," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 59(C), pages 483-500.
    4. Cantoni, Enrico & Gazze, Ludovica & Schafer, Jerome, 2021. "Turnout in Concurrent Elections: Evidence from Two Quasi-Experiments in Italy," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 557, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    5. Jeffrey Nonnemacher, 2021. "Disengaging elections? Political interest, number of elections, and turnout in elections to the European Parliament," European Union Politics, , vol. 22(3), pages 545-565, September.
    6. Stutzer, Alois & Baltensperger, Michael & Meier, Armando N., 2018. "Overstrained Citizens?," Working papers 2018/25, Faculty of Business and Economics - University of Basel.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Turnout; Election frequency; Voter motivation; Choice fatigue; Contextual inference;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D70 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - General
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • C23 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Single Equation Models; Single Variables - - - Models with Panel Data; Spatio-temporal Models

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