Abstract

https://ssrn.com/abstract=2768900
 


 



Direct Democracy, Postal Voting, and the Composition of Turnout


Michael M. Bechtel


Washington University in Saint Louis

Lukas Schmid


May 29, 2016


Abstract:     
Electoral reforms that decrease the costs of political participation promise to reduce class biases in civic engagement. However, this could lower the quality of democracy as the less politically interested, knowledgeable, and educated may also vote more frequently. We exploit the sequential introduction of postal voting in Swiss cantons to analyze in detail how an exogenous decrease in voting costs affects the political and socio-demographic composition of turnout in direct legislation. We find that while postal voting mobilizes equally along many dimensions including individuals' political knowledge, employment status, and religious denomination, it more strongly activates partisans of left and centrist parties, less politically interested individuals, and high earners. However, these changes have only limited effects on the overall turnout composition and are unlikely to affect referendum outcomes. Our results alleviate concerns about the negative side effects of postal voting on the quality of collective choice in large electorates.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 35

Keywords: Turnout, Political Participation, Referendums, Elections, Postal Voting, Democracy, Public Policy

JEL Classification: D72


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Date posted: April 25, 2016 ; Last revised: June 1, 2016

Suggested Citation

Bechtel, Michael M. and Schmid, Lukas, Direct Democracy, Postal Voting, and the Composition of Turnout (May 29, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2768900

Contact Information

Michael M. Bechtel (Contact Author)
Washington University in Saint Louis ( email )
Campus Box 1063
One Brookings Drive
Saint Louis, MO 63130-4899
United States
No contact information is available for Lukas Schmid
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