Economic Inequality and Electoral Participation: A Cross-Country Evaluation
Comparative Study of the Electoral Systems (CSES) Conference, Toronto, ON, Canada, September 2009
31 Pages Posted: 30 Nov 2009
Date Written: September 6, 2009
Empirical research has shown that electoral engagement is positively correlated with income at the individual level. At the same time, the aggregate relationship between income inequality and electoral turnout is still unclear. While most studies show a negative impact of inequality over turnout, some others have found no relationship at all, and some others even suggest a positive impact. In this paper I argue that more fine-grained research is needed to understand this relationship. Firstly, standard measures of inequality, such as the Gini index, do not seem to be adequate to study the effect of inequality over turnout, given that changes in the Gini index may reflect either a change at the top or at the bottom of the income ladder. For that reason, alternative measures, such as the income ratio between quintiles, need to be tested. Secondly, differences in electoral engagement by income may be affected by the set of political alternatives available in each country. I hypothesize that when the polarization between parties on economic and social issues is high, that will induce a higher electoral turnout, given that voters will be highly motivated to avoid the undesired outcome. In order to test these hypotheses, I use data from CSES (Module 2) as well as aggregate data. Multilevel analysis is used to these hypotheses. Results are also compared with estimated dependent variable (EDV) techniques. Findings show that different measures of income inequality may change the relationship between inequality and electoral turnout. On the other hand, party polarization seems to be correlated with differences in turnout.
Keywords: electoral participation, inequality, income, polarization
JEL Classification: D63, D84, I38, J62
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation