Social Incentives and Voter Turnout: Evidence from the Swiss Mail Ballot System
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
Date posted: July 20, 2006 ; Last revised: December 8, 2008
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