Does Compulsory Voting Increase Support for Leftist Policy?
American Journal of Political Science (Forthcoming)
45 Pages Posted: 24 Nov 2013 Last revised: 28 Aug 2015
Date Written: April 1, 2015
Citizens unequally participate in referendums and this may systematically bias policy in favor of those who vote. Some view compulsory voting as an important tool to alleviate this problem while others worry about its detrimental effects on the legitimacy and quality of democratic decision-making. So far, however, we lack systematic knowledge about the causal effect of compulsory voting on public policy. We argue that sanctioned compulsory voting mobilizes citizens at the bottom of the income distribution and that this translates into an increase in support for leftist policies. We empirically explore the effects of a sanctioned compulsory voting law on direct-democratic decision-making in Switzerland. We find that compulsory voting significantly increases electoral support for leftist policy positions in referendums by up to 20 percentage points. We discuss the implications of these results for our understanding of the policy consequences of electoral institutions.
Keywords: Voting, Turnout, Public Policy, Mobilization, Elections, Referendums, Direct Democracy, Social Policy
JEL Classification: H41, P16, D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation