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Civic norms, social sanctions and voting turnout


  • Knack, Stephen


This study views voter participation as a collective action problem overcome chiefly by means of "solidary" and "purposive" selective incentives. It is argued that these incentives are primarily in the form of civic or societal norms, rather than special interest norms associated with partisan or group loyalties. The emphasis on civic norms is supported by positive correlations between turnout and other socially cooperative behaviors such as responding to the census, participating in PTA's, and giving to charities. Data on interpersonal pressures to vote are found to support the hypothesis that "enforcement" of voting norms via social sanctions significantly enhances turnout. The American turnout decline is interpreted in terms of a weakening of social ties adversely affecting the socialization and enforcement of norms responsible for generating civic participation.

Suggested Citation

  • Knack, Stephen, 1992. "Civic norms, social sanctions and voting turnout," MPRA Paper 28080, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  • Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:28080

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    Cited by:

    1. Stocké, Volker, 2005. "Response privacy and elapsed time since election day as determinants for vote overreporting," Papers 05-42, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    2. Sabatini, Fabio, 2006. "The Empirics of Social Capital and Economic Development: A Critical Perspective," Knowledge, Technology, Human Capital Working Papers 12097, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    3. repec:kap:pubcho:v:178:y:2019:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-018-00626-8 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Knack, Stephen, 2000. "Deterring Voter Registration through Juror Selection Practices: Evidence from Survey Data," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 103(1-2), pages 49-62, April.
    5. Andreas P. Kyriacou, 2011. "Rational Irrationality and Group Size: The Effect of Biased Beliefs on Individual Contributions Towards Collective Goods," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 70(1), pages 109-130, January.
    6. Fredrik Carlsson & Olof Johansson‐Stenman, 2010. "Why Do You Vote and Vote as You Do?," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(4), pages 495-516, November.
    7. Elinor Ostrom, 2010. "Analyzing collective action," Agricultural Economics, International Association of Agricultural Economists, vol. 41(s1), pages 155-166, November.
    8. Lydia Mechtenberg & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2016. "Voter Motivation and the Quality of Democratic Choice," Discussion Papers 16-13, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    9. Martha Kropf, 2009. "Won't You Be My Neighbor? Norms of Cooperation, Public Broadcasting, and the Collective Action Problem," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(3), pages 538-552, September.
    10. Gintis, Herbert, 2016. "Homo Ludens: Social rationality and political behavior," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 126(PB), pages 95-109.
    11. repec:eee:resene:v:54:y:2018:i:c:p:212-225 is not listed on IDEAS
    12. Coleman, Stephen, 2014. "Evolution of the Russian Political Party System under the Influence of Social Conformity: 1993-2011," MPRA Paper 59038, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    13. Sabatini, Fabio, 2006. "Social Capital, Public Spending and the Quality of Economic Development: The Case of Italy," Knowledge, Technology, Human Capital Working Papers 12079, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei (FEEM).
    14. 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 Group Munich.
    15. Fehr, Ernst & Gachter, Simon, 1998. "Reciprocity and economics: The economic implications of Homo Reciprocans1," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 42(3-5), pages 845-859, May.
    16. repec:eee:matsoc:v:94:y:2018:i:c:p:87-95 is not listed on IDEAS
    17. Niklas Potrafke & Felix Rösel, 2016. "Opening Hours of Polling Stations and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," CESifo Working Paper Series 6036, CESifo Group Munich.
    18. Stocké, Volker & Stark, Tobias, 2005. "Stichprobenverzerrung durch Item-Nonresponse in der international vergleichenden Politikwissenschaft," Papers 05-43, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    19. Stocké, Volker & Stark, Tobias, 2005. "Stichprobenverzerrung durch Item-Nonresponse in der international vergleichenden Politikwissenschaft," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 05-43, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    20. repec:eee:soceco:v:77:y:2018:i:c:p:78-87 is not listed on IDEAS
    21. Stocké, Volker & Stark, Tobias, 2006. "Political involvement and memory failure as interdependent determinants of vote overreporting," Papers 06-01, Sonderforschungsbreich 504.
    22. Niklas Potrafke & Felix Roesel, 2019. "A banana republic? The effects of inconsistencies in the counting of votes on voting behavior," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 178(1), pages 231-265, January.
    23. David K Levine & Andrea Mattozzi, 2018. "Voter Turnout with Peer Punishment," Levine's Bibliography 786969000000001500, UCLA Department of Economics.
    24. Katharine G. Abraham & Sara E. Helms & Stanley Presser, 2008. "How Social Processes Distort Measurement: The Impact of Survey Nonresponse on Estimates of Volunteer Work," NBER Working Papers 14076, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

    More about this item


    voting; elections; collective action; social sanctions; free riding;

    JEL classification:

    • D7 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making
    • Z13 - Other Special Topics - - Cultural Economics - - - Economic Sociology; Economic Anthropology; Language; Social and Economic Stratification


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