Does Voter Turnout Cause Election Outcomes?

31 Pages Posted: 25 Oct 2014 Last revised: 28 Apr 2015

See all articles by Yusaku Horiuchi

Yusaku Horiuchi

Dartmouth College - Department of Government

Woo Chang Kang

Australian National University (ANU), College of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Politics & International Relations, Students

Date Written: April 28, 2015

Abstract

Does higher (lower) voter turnout produce more votes for parties on the left (right)? Over the course of the past seven decades, both academics and the media have studied this question at length. In this paper, however, we argue that whether voter turnout has a causal effect on the outcome of an election is a "fundamentally unidentified question" (Angrist and Pischke, 2008). This is because we never observe one of the potential outcomes – an individual’s vote choice if he/she did not even vote in the first place. Given the data-generating process, we argue that it makes more sense to examine how theoretically-important or policy-relevant exogenous factors affect voter turnout and party support simultaneously. This study exemplifies the importance of carefully defining potential outcomes and causality in observational studies. Searching for good instrumental variables is a valid approach only if counterfactuals are properly defined.

Keywords: causal inference, potential outcome, turnout, rainfall, instrumental variable

JEL Classification: C90, D72

Suggested Citation

Horiuchi, Yusaku and Kang, Woo Chang, Does Voter Turnout Cause Election Outcomes? (April 28, 2015). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2514348 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2514348

Yusaku Horiuchi (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Department of Government ( email )

204 Silsby Hall
HB 6108
Hanover, NH 03755
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.dartmouth.edu/horiuchi/

Woo Chang Kang

Australian National University (ANU), College of Arts and Social Sciences, School of Politics & International Relations, Students ( email )

Canberra
Australia

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