Identifying the Effect of Election Closeness on Voter Turnout: Evidence from Swiss Referenda

54 Pages Posted: 13 Jun 2017 Last revised: 8 Sep 2021

See all articles by Leonardo Bursztyn

Leonardo Bursztyn

University of Chicago - Department of Economics

Davide Cantoni

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München

Patricia Funk

University of Lugano

Noam Yuchtman

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business

Noam Yuchtman

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

Date Written: June 2017

Abstract

We provide evidence of a causal effect of anticipated election closeness on voter turnout, exploiting the precise day-level timing of the release of Swiss national poll results for high-stakes federal referenda, and a novel dataset on daily mail-in voting for the canton of Geneva. Using an event study design, we find that the release of a closer poll causes voter turnout to sharply rise immediately after poll release, with no differential pre-release turnout levels or trends. We provide evidence that polls affect turnout by providing information shaping beliefs about closeness: first, the introduction of Swiss polls had significantly larger effects in politically unrepresentative municipalities, where locally available signals of closeness are less correlated with national closeness. Second, the effects of close polls are largest where newspapers report on them most. Counterfactual exercises suggest the importance of polls and reporting on polls in shaping election outcomes.

Suggested Citation

Bursztyn, Leonardo and Cantoni, Davide and Funk, Patricia and Yuchtman, Noam and Yuchtman, Noam, Identifying the Effect of Election Closeness on Voter Turnout: Evidence from Swiss Referenda (June 2017). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2984667

Leonardo Bursztyn (Contact Author)

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

1126 E. 59th St
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Davide Cantoni

Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München ( email )

Patricia Funk

University of Lugano ( email )

Via Giuseppe Buffi 13
Lugano, TN Ticino 6900
Switzerland

Noam Yuchtman

University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business ( email )

545 Student Services Building, #1900
2220 Piedmont Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

Noam Yuchtman

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

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