Compulsory Voting, Habit Formation, and Political Participation
51 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 23 Jun 2017
Date Written: January 1, 2015
Can electoral institutions induce lasting changes in citizens' voting habits? We study the long-term and spillover effects of compulsory voting in the Swiss canton of Vaud (1900-1970) and find that this intervention increases turnout in federal referendums by 30 percentage points. However, despite its magnitude, the effect returns to zero quickly after voting is no longer compulsory. We find minor spillover effects on related forms of political participation that also vanish immediately after compulsory voting has been abolished. Overall, these results question habit formation arguments in the context of compulsory voting. They are consistent with a more parsimonious theory in which individuals quickly adapt to externally imposed changes in the costs of non-voting.
Keywords: Habit Formation, Compulsory Voting, Turnout, Political Participation, Social Norms
JEL Classification: H41, P16, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation