Compulsory Voting, Habit Formation, and Political Participation

34 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2011 Last revised: 12 Feb 2015

Michael M. Bechtel

Washington University in Saint Louis

Dominik Hangartner

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE); Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

Lukas Schmid

Date Written: January 2015

Abstract

Can compulsory voting induce lasting changes in citizens' voting habits? We study the long-term and spillover effects of a severely sanctioned and long-standing compulsory voting law in the Swiss canton of Vaud (1900-1970). Our findings suggest that compulsory voting strongly increases turnout in federal referendums by about 30 percentage points. However, this effect returns to zero quickly after voting is no longer compulsory. Moreover, we find only minor spillover effects on related forms of political participation. These spillover effects are limited to referendums that were concurrent with referendums for which voting was compulsory. These results question habit formation arguments in the context of compulsory voting laws. Instead, our findings are consistent with a rationalist model of political participation in which individuals quickly adapt to changes in the costs of non-voting.

JEL Classification: H41, P16, D72

Suggested Citation

Bechtel, Michael M. and Hangartner, Dominik and Schmid, Lukas, Compulsory Voting, Habit Formation, and Political Participation (January 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1914333 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1914333

Michael M. Bechtel (Contact Author)

Washington University in Saint Louis ( email )

Campus Box 1063
One Brookings Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States

Dominik Hangartner

London School of Economics & Political Science (LSE) ( email )

Departments of Government and Methodology
Houghton Street
London, WC2A 2AE
United Kingdom

Stanford Immigration Policy Lab

30 Alta Road
Stanford, CA 94305
United States

No contact information is available for Lukas Schmid

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