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Compulsory voting, habit formation, and political participation

Bechtel, Michael M., Hangartner, Dominik and Schmid, Lukas (2018) Compulsory voting, habit formation, and political participation. Review of Economics and Statistics, 100 (3). pp. 467-476. ISSN 0034-6535

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Identification Number: 10.1162/rest_a_00701


Can electoral institutions induce lasting changes in citizens’ voting habits? We study the long-term and spillover effects of compulsory voting in the Swiss canton of Vaud (1900–1970) and find that this intervention increases turnout in federal referendums by 30 percentage points. However, despite its magnitude, the effect disappears quickly after voting is no longer compulsory. We find minor spillover effects on related forms of political participation that also vanish immediately after compulsory voting has been abolished. Overall, these results question habit formation arguments in the context of compulsory voting.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The President and Fellows of Harvard College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Divisions: Government
Subjects: J Political Science > JC Political theory
JEL classification: D - Microeconomics > D7 - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making > D72 - Economic Models of Political Processes: Rent-Seeking, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
H - Public Economics > H4 - Publicly Provided Goods > H41 - Public Goods
P - Economic Systems > P1 - Capitalist Systems > P16 - Political Economy
Date Deposited: 06 Aug 2018 15:20
Last Modified: 20 Oct 2021 00:04
Projects: PP00P1-139035, 100017-141317/1
Funders: Swiss National Science Foundation

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