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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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    3. Sabet, Navid, 2016. "Turning Out for Redistribution: The Effect of Voter Turnout on Top Marginal Tax Rates," Discussion Papers in Economics 29636, University of Munich, Department of Economics.
    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. Stefanie Gäbler & Niklas Potrafke & Felix Rösel, 2017. "Compulsory Voting, Voter Turnout and Asymmetrical Habit-formation," CESifo Working Paper Series 6764, CESifo.
    6. Sebastian Garmann, 0. "Voter turnout and public sector employment policy," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 0, pages 1-24.
    7. Niklas Potrafke & Felix Rösel, 2016. "Opening Hours of Polling Stations and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 6036, CESifo.
    8. Funk, Patricia & Litschig, Stephan, 2020. "Policy choices in assembly versus representative democracy: Evidence from Swiss communes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 182(C).
    9. 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.
    10. Michael Klien & Mickael Melki & Andrew Pickering, 2018. "Voter Turnout and Intergenerational Redistribution," Discussion Papers 18/10, Department of Economics, University of York.
    11. 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.
    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).
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    14. 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).
    15. Sebastian Garmann, 2020. "Voter turnout and public sector employment policy," The Review of International Organizations, Springer, vol. 15(4), pages 845-868, October.
    16. 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.
    17. 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).
    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. Krzysztof Beck & Michał Możdżeń, 2020. "Institutional Determinants of Budgetary Expenditures. A BMA-Based Re-Evaluation of Contemporary Theories for OECD Countries," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, 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 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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