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Does Voting History Matter? Analysing Persistence in Turnout

  • Kevin Denny

    (University College Dublin)

  • Orla Doyle

    (University College Dublin)

Individuals who vote in one election are also more likely to vote in the next. Modelling the causal relationship between past and current voting decisions however is intrinsically difficult, as this positive association can exist due to habit formation or unobserved heterogeneity. This paper overcomes this problem using longitudinal data from the British National Child Development Study (NCDS) to examine voter turnout across three elections. It distinguishes between unobserved heterogeneity caused by fixed individual characteristics and the initial conditions problem, which occurs when voting behaviour in a previous, but unobserved, period influences current voting behaviour. It finds that controlling for fixed effects unobserved heterogeneity has little impact on the estimated degree of habit in voter turnout, however failing to control for initial conditions reduces the estimate by a half. The results imply that voting in one election increases the probability of voting in a subsequent election by 13%.

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File URL: http://www.ucd.ie/economics/research/papers/2006/WP06.07.pdf
File Function: First version, 2006
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Paper provided by School Of Economics, University College Dublin in its series Working Papers with number 200607.

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Length: 35 pages
Date of creation: 08 May 2006
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ucn:wpaper:200607
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Web page: http://www.ucd.ie/economics

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  1. Ebonya Washington & Sendhil Mullainathan, 2009. "Sticking with Your Vote: Cognitive Dissonance and Political Attitudes," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 86-111, January.
  2. Arulampalam, Wiji & Booth, Alison L & Taylor, Mark P, 2000. "Unemployment Persistence," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 52(1), pages 24-50, January.
  3. Ron Shachar, 2003. "Party loyalty as habit formation," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 18(3), pages 251-269.
  4. Kevin Denny & Patrick Orla Doyle, 2005. "“…Take up thy Bed, and Vote” Measuring the Relationship between Voting Behaviour and Indicators of Health," Working Papers 200522, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  5. Charles Pattie & Ron Johnston, 2001. "A Low Turnout Landslide: Abstention at the British General Election of 1997," Political Studies, Political Studies Association, vol. 49(2), pages 286-305, 06.
  6. Kevin Denny & Patrick Orla Doyle, 2005. "Political Interest, Cognitive Ability and Personality - Determinants of Voter Turnout in Britain," Working Papers 200511, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
  7. Alan Gerber & Donald Green & Ron Shachar, 2003. "Voting may be habit forming: Evidence from a randomized field experiment," Natural Field Experiments 00251, The Field Experiments Website.
  8. Benjamin Radcliff, 2001. "Organized Labor and Electoral Participation in American National Elections," Journal of Labor Research, Transaction Publishers, vol. 22(2), pages 405-414, April.
  9. Denise Hawkes & Ian Plewis, 2006. "Modelling non-response in the National Child Development Study," Journal of the Royal Statistical Society Series A, Royal Statistical Society, vol. 169(3), pages 479-491.
  10. Chamberlain, Gary, 1984. "Panel data," Handbook of Econometrics, in: Z. Griliches† & M. D. Intriligator (ed.), Handbook of Econometrics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 22, pages 1247-1318 Elsevier.
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