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Compulsory voting, turnout, and government spending: Evidence from Austria

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  • Hoffman, Mitchell
  • León, Gianmarco
  • Lombardi, María

Abstract

We study a unique quasi-experiment in Austria, where compulsory voting laws are changed across Austria's nine states at different times. Analyzing state and national elections from 1949 to 2010, we show that compulsory voting laws with weakly enforced fines increase turnout by roughly 10 percentage points. However, we find no evidence that this change in turnout affected government spending patterns (in levels or composition) or electoral outcomes. Individual-level data on turnout and political preferences suggest that these results occur because the impacts of compulsory voting on turnout are larger among those who are non-partisan, who have low interest in politics, and who are uninformed.

Suggested Citation

  • Hoffman, Mitchell & León, Gianmarco & Lombardi, María, 2017. "Compulsory voting, turnout, and government spending: Evidence from Austria," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 103-115.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:145:y:2017:i:c:p:103-115
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2016.10.002
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    Cited by:

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    3. Navid Sabet, 2023. "Turning out for redistribution: the effect of voter turnout on top marginal tax rates," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 194(3), pages 347-367, March.
    4. Bursztyn, Leonardo & Cantoni, Davide & Funk, Patricia & Yuchtman, Noam, 2017. "Polls, the Press, and Political Participation: The Effects of Anticipated Election Closeness on Voter Turnout," CEPR Discussion Papers 12088, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    5. Gaebler, Stefanie & Potrafke, Niklas & Roesel, Felix, 2020. "Compulsory voting and political participation: Empirical evidence from Austria," Regional Science and Urban Economics, Elsevier, vol. 81(C).
    6. Klien, Michael & Melki, Mickael & Pickering, Andrew, 2021. "Voter turnout and intergenerational redistribution," Journal of Comparative Economics, Elsevier, vol. 49(2), pages 603-626.
    7. Florian Haelg & Niklas Potrafke & Jan-Egbert Sturm, 2022. "The determinants of social expenditures in OECD countries," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 193(3), pages 233-261, December.
    8. Stefanie Gäbler & Niklas Potrafke & Felix Rösel, 2017. "Compulsory Voting, Voter Turnout and Asymmetrical Habit-formation," CESifo Working Paper Series 6764, CESifo.
    9. Niklas Potrafke & Felix Roesel, 2020. "Opening hours of polling stations and voter turnout: Evidence from a natural experiment," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 133-163, January.
    10. Funk, Patricia & Litschig, Stephan, 2020. "Policy choices in assembly versus representative democracy: Evidence from Swiss communes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 182(C).
    11. Enrico Ivaldi & Guido Bonatti & Riccardo Soliani, 2017. "An Indicator for the Measurement of Political Participation: The Case of Italy," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 132(2), pages 605-620, June.
    12. Marco Frank & David Stadelmann & Benno Torgler, 2020. "Electoral Turnout During States of Emergency and Effects on Incumbent Vote Share," CREMA Working Paper Series 2020-10, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
    13. Poy, Samuele & Schüller, Simone, 2020. "Internet and voting in the social media era: Evidence from a local broadband policy," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(1).
    14. Leonardo Bursztyn & Davide Cantoni & Patricia Funk & Felix Schönenberger & Noam Yuchtman, 2017. "Identifying the Effect of Election Closeness on Voter Turnout: Evidence from Swiss Referenda," NBER Working Papers 23490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    15. Nyhus, Ole Henning & Strøm, Bjarne, 2023. "School spending and extension of the youth voting franchise: Quasi-experimental evidence from Norway," Economics of Education Review, Elsevier, vol. 92(C).
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    17. Sebastian Garmann, 2020. "Voter turnout and public sector employment policy," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 845-868, October.
    18. Niklas Potrafke & Felix Rösel, 2016. "A Banana Republic? Trust in Electoral Institutions in Western Democracies - Evidence from a Presidential Election in Austria," CESifo Working Paper Series 6254, CESifo.
    19. Niklas Potrafke & Felix Rösel, 2018. "Welche Folgen haben längere Öffnungszeiten von Wahllokalen?," ifo Schnelldienst, ifo Institute - Leibniz Institute for Economic Research at the University of Munich, vol. 71(05), pages 23-26, March.
    20. Rodrigo Schneider & Diloá Athias & Mauricio Bugarin, 2019. "Does enfranchisement affect fiscal policy? Theory and empirical evidence on Brazil," Economics of Governance, Springer, vol. 20(4), pages 389-412, December.
    21. Sebastian Garmann, 2020. "Political efficacy and the persistence of turnout shocks," Economics and Politics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 32(3), pages 411-429, November.
    22. Christian Salas, 2022. "Representation increases participation: evidence from a reform in Chile," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 191(1), pages 21-30, April.
    23. Krzysztof Beck & Michał Możdżeń, 2020. "Institutional Determinants of Budgetary Expenditures. A BMA-Based Re-Evaluation of Contemporary Theories for OECD Countries," Sustainability, MDPI, vol. 12(10), pages 1-31, May.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Compulsory voting; Fiscal policy; Incentives to vote;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • P16 - Political Economy and Comparative Economic Systems - - Capitalist Economies - - - Capitalist Institutions; Welfare State

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