Turnout, Polarization, and Duverger's Law

10 Pages Posted: 11 Dec 2007

See all articles by Steven Callander

Steven Callander

Stanford Graduate School of Business

Catherine H. Wilson

affiliation not provided to SSRN


We reexamine the impact of abstention due to alienation on policy outcomes and the choices of strategic candidates. We establish the existence of a unique equilibrium under plurality rule in which only two candidates enter, choose divergent policy positions, and deter subsequent entry. This equilibrium is simultaneously consistent with the dual empirical regularities of Duverger's Law and policy divergence. Driving our results is the observation that when abstention is included, a third candidate optimally enters the election by differentiating himself from the incumbent candidates, consistent with entry observed in practice. Our results confirm that not only are the platforms of candidates important to the turnout decisions of voters, but that the turnout decisions of voters are important to platform positions. The model provides a causal mechanism linking these two variables, offering a theoretical basis for the decrease in turnout and increase in polarization experienced in the United States after the 1960s.

Suggested Citation

Callander, Steven and Wilson, Catherine H., Turnout, Polarization, and Duverger's Law. Journal of Politics, Vol. 69, Issue 4, pp. 1047-1056, November 2007, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1066022 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2508.2007.00606.x

Steven Callander (Contact Author)

Stanford Graduate School of Business ( email )

655 Knight Way
Stanford, CA 94305-5015
United States

Catherine H. Wilson

affiliation not provided to SSRN

No Address Available

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