Theories Of Voter Participation

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A remarkable degree of concern has been expressed about level of voter turnout in democracies. Many behavioral level theories, more specifically rational choice theory is unsuccessful in explaining voter turnout. Indeed, “the instrument voter axiom predicts large-scale abstention because no individual is likely to have an influence on the election outcome” (Downs, 1957). However, international election results demonstrate that a large number of people do turn out to cast their vote, although they are not obliged to do so (Geys, 2006). This constitutes the paradox of voting. While many political scientists focused on individual level explanations for voter turnout, many comparative politics scholars focused on the institutional level explanation …show more content…
The logic is that proportional representation (PR) produces more parties (Duverger, 1959) which means that voters have more choice. Because voters are offered more choice fewer citizens should feel indifferent or alienated from party system. Another reason why turnout is predicted to be higher in PR system is that PR produces stronger competition that compels parties to increase their mobilization efforts and increase competition might compel citizens to come out and vote because they might think that their vote matters more. Contrary to these arguments, Jackman (1987) argued that PR could, in fact, depress turnout. He points out that because PR produces more parties, it is also more likely to lead to formation of coalition government. Since voters have no say about the actual coalition that is created after the election, there would be less incentives to come out and …show more content…
Intuitively, their story makes sense. Depending on the electoral formula, different incentives are created for parties to respond by mobilizing voters and for voters to come out and vote. However, Enos and Fowler (2014) organized a large-scale field experiment in which they informed citizens that the upcoming elections will be close. They found that even when the perception of probability that one’s vote will change the outcome increases, this does not have a substantial effect on voter turnout. Moreover, Kernell’s (2015) analysis showed that party supporters are more likely to campaign for their parties or engage in political persuasion when top party members select the candidates. Since campaigns effect voter turnout, one could possibly argue that perhaps, difference in voter turnout in Bolivia and Brazil could partially be due to their different nomination process of candidates. In other words, there will still be a relationship between the number of parties and voter turnout, but the theoretical reasoning behind it could be a different one. Lastly, they should have explored disproportionality, which can be conceptualized as a summary measure

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