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Electoral Participation: How to Measure Voter Turnout?


  • Daniel Stockemer

    () (University of Ottawa)


Abstract In the comparative turnout literature, there are two ways of measuring voter turnout: (1) voter turnout as the percentage of registered voters that actually turn out (RV turnout) and (2) voter turnout as the percentage of a country’s voting age population that cast their ballot on Election Day (VAP turnout). Both measurements are imprecise, the former overestimates turnout, the latter either underestimates or overestimates turnout. In this article, I introduce a more accurate calculation of macro-level electoral participation into the comparative turnout literature, the percentage of eligible voters or VEP turnout. To do so, I first calculate VEP turnout and add it to a dataset on electoral turnout that covers more than 500 elections conducted in democracies from 1990 to 2012. Second, I use a standard turnout model and highlight that the constituents of turnout somewhat differ across RV turnout, VAP turnout, and VEP turnout.

Suggested Citation

  • Daniel Stockemer, 2017. "Electoral Participation: How to Measure Voter Turnout?," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 133(3), pages 943-962, September.
  • Handle: RePEc:spr:soinre:v:133:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11205-016-1410-6
    DOI: 10.1007/s11205-016-1410-6

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Christine Fauvelle-Aymar & Abel François, 2006. "The impact of closeness on turnout: An empirical relation based on a study of a two-round ballot," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 127(3), pages 461-483, June.
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    3. Daniel Stockemer, 2011. "Women's Parliamentary Representation in Africa: The Impact of Democracy and Corruption on the Number of Female Deputies in National Parliaments," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 59(3), pages 693-712, October.
    4. David Brockington, 2004. "The Paradox of Proportional Representation: The Effect of Party Systems and Coalitions on Individuals' Electoral Participation," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 52, pages 469-490, October.
    5. Powell, G. Bingham, 1986. "American Voter Turnout in Comparative Perspective," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 80(1), pages 17-43, March.
    6. Jackman, Robert W., 1987. "Political Institutions and Voter Turnout in the Industrial Democracies," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 81(2), pages 405-423, June.
    7. Paul Collier & Pedro Vicente, 2012. "Violence, bribery, and fraud: the political economy of elections in Sub-Saharan Africa," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 153(1), pages 117-147, October.
    8. Christine Fauvelle-Aymar & Mary Stegmaier, 2006. "European parliament electoral turnout in Post-Communist Europe," Cahiers de la Maison des Sciences Economiques j06004, Université Panthéon-Sorbonne (Paris 1).
    9. White, Halbert, 1980. "A Heteroskedasticity-Consistent Covariance Matrix Estimator and a Direct Test for Heteroskedasticity," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 48(4), pages 817-838, May.
    10. Csaba Nikolenyi, 2010. "Concurrent Elections and Voter Turnout: The Effect of the De-linking of State Elections on Electoral Participation in India's Parliamentary Polls, 1971-2004," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 58, pages 214-233, February.
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