Social Capital and Voter Turnout: Evidence from Saint's Day Fiestas in Mexico
Atkinson, Matthew D. and Anthony Fowler. 2012. Social Capital and Voter Turnout: Evidence from Saint's Day Fiestas in Mexico. British Journal of Political Science, DOI: dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007123412000713.
27 Pages Posted: 13 Apr 2011 Last revised: 26 Apr 2013
Social capital and community activity are thought to increase voter turnout, but reverse causation and omitted variables may bias the results of previous studies. We exploit saint’s day fiestas in Mexico as a natural experiment to test this causal relationship. Saint’s day fiestas provide temporary but large shocks to the connectedness and trust within a community, and the timing of these fiestas is quasi-random. Employing both cross-municipality and within-municipality estimates, we find that saint’s day fiestas occurring near an election decrease turnout by 2.5 to 3.5 percentage points. Community activities which generate social capital can inhibit political participation, giving pause to scholars and policymakers who assume that such activity will improve the performance of democracy.
Keywords: social capital, turnout, political participation, natural experiment
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