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How do municipal amalgamations affect turnout in local elections? Insights from the 2015 municipal reform in the Austrian state of Styria

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  • Reinhard Heinisch
  • Thomas Lehner
  • Armin Mühlböck
  • Christian H. Schimpf

Abstract

In this paper, we evaluate the effect of municipal amalgamations on election turnout in local elections. Following recent studies, we argue that municipal mergers can lead to less information about the election being made available to citizens and less influence for individual voters. That is, while citizens in the local context usually rely on their own direct contacts in local offices and among political candidates, the subsequent increase in population size due to a merger reduces opportunities for establishing such contacts and for having decisive influence on political decisions. Consequently, voters are less informed and less engaged, resulting in lower levels of electoral turnout in local elections. We test our argument empirically by using aggregate level data from the municipal level from the 2010 and 2015 local elections in Styria, Austria, which followed the amalgamation of some, but not all, municipalities in January 2015. The empirical results support our argument.

Suggested Citation

  • Reinhard Heinisch & Thomas Lehner & Armin Mühlböck & Christian H. Schimpf, 2018. "How do municipal amalgamations affect turnout in local elections? Insights from the 2015 municipal reform in the Austrian state of Styria," Local Government Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(4), pages 465-491, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:flgsxx:v:44:y:2018:i:4:p:465-491
    DOI: 10.1080/03003930.2018.1465935
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