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Electoral Turnout and Social Capital

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Although social capital is a useful and often used concept in political science to explain political behavior and electoral turnout, its effects are rarely tested because of scarcity of available data. It is hard to find a good measure of social capital not produced by a political process. Moreover, the concept suffers from an unstable definition that makes it difficult to operationalize. In line with a part of the previous literature, we propose a restricted definition of social capital based on its main origin, a person’s accumulated social interactions. This enables us to integrate social capital into the rational calculus of voting and state a clear prediction that higher social capital will raise electoral turnout. We test this prediction using data on New Zealand participation in the 2017 national election based on 2013 census characteristics at the finest aggregated level of “meshblock.” We measure social capital using a census measure of volunteering rates. Our results are clear and stable: there is a strong positive association between social capital and subsequent electoral turnout.

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  • Jeremy Clark & Abel François & Olivier Gergaud, 2020. "Electoral Turnout and Social Capital," Working Papers in Economics 20/13, University of Canterbury, Department of Economics and Finance.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbt:econwp:20/13
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    Keywords

    Electoral turnout; social capital; volunteering work; calculus of voting;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D42 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Monopoly

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