Compulsory Voting and Voter Information Seeking
33 Pages Posted: 23 Dec 2016 Last revised: 13 Dec 2017
Date Written: December 12, 2017
Compulsory voting is known to produce a relatively weak match between voters’ ballot choices and their preferences. We theorize that this link, in part, exists because compelled voters are relatively unlikely to seek out political information during an election campaign, even after differences in political sophistication across compelled and voluntary voters are taken into account. To test our expectations, we use a simulation of an Australian election, through which we track participants’ information searches. Our findings show that those who do not turn out voluntarily under Australia’s compulsory voting law tend to spend less time seeking out political information, and they engage with less information. While differences in political sophistication between those who feel compelled to vote and those who do not account for a portion of this pattern, feeling compelled also has an independent effect on information seeking. This suggests that the negative relationship between compulsory voting and the "quality" of votes is partly due to the fact that those who are compelled to turn out expend less effort when deciding how to cast their ballots.
Keywords: Compulsory Voting, Voter Information Seeking, Polls
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