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Social Incentives and Voter Turnout: Evidence from the Swiss Mail Ballot System

Patricia Funk

University of Lugano

November 24, 2008

Journal of the European Economic Association, Forthcoming

This paper uses a natural experiment to document the impact of social pressure on voting behavior. The main hypothesis is that social pressure creates incentives to vote for the purpose of being seen at the voting act. This incentive is particularly high in small and close-knit communities. Empirically, I analyze the effect of postal voting on voter participation in Switzerland. Optional postal voting decreased the voting costs, but simultaneously removed the social pressure to vote. In spite of the large reduction in voting costs, the effect on aggregate turnout was small. However, voter participation was more negatively affected in the smaller communities. This lends support to the view that social incentives played a role for certain people's voting decisions.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 40

Keywords: Social pressure, voter turnout, mail voting

JEL Classification: H0, Z13

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Date posted: July 20, 2006 ; Last revised: December 8, 2008

Suggested Citation

Funk, Patricia, Social Incentives and Voter Turnout: Evidence from the Swiss Mail Ballot System (November 24, 2008). Journal of the European Economic Association, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=917770

Contact Information

Patricia Funk (Contact Author)
University of Lugano ( email )
Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano, Ticino 6900
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