Does Voter Registration Foster Civic Attitudes? A Natural Experiment in Japan

30 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2017 Last revised: 17 Apr 2019

See all articles by Yusaku Horiuchi

Yusaku Horiuchi

Dartmouth College - Department of Government

Hiroto Katsumata

Gakushuin University

Ethan Woodard

Date Written: April 15, 2019


Does voter registration foster civic attitudes? We examine this question via a natural experiment in Japan wherein all citizens, without needing to file any paperwork, are automatically registered to vote at the age of eighteen. Specifically, just after the 2016 House of Councillors election in Japan, we invited thousands of "just eligible" (who could vote in the election) and "not-just-yet eligible" young Japanese citizens to take a survey and measured their level of political interest, trust in government, sense of efficacy in policy making, and intention to vote in the future. The results of our regression discontinuity analysis suggest that automatic registration does not change civic attitudes. Although automatic registration may boost turnout, contrary to advocates' claim, it does not foster civic attitudes because it does not require citizens' self-initiated actions.

Keywords: voter registration, political interest, trust, efficacy, civic attitudes, regression discontinuity, Japan

JEL Classification: D72

Suggested Citation

Horiuchi, Yusaku and Katsumata, Hiroto and Woodard, Ethan, Does Voter Registration Foster Civic Attitudes? A Natural Experiment in Japan (April 15, 2019). Available at SSRN: or

Yusaku Horiuchi (Contact Author)

Dartmouth College - Department of Government ( email )

204 Silsby Hall
HB 6108
Hanover, NH 03755
United States


Hiroto Katsumata

Gakushuin University ( email )

1-5-1 Mejiro
Toshima-ku Tokyo 171-8588
United States

No contact information is available for Ethan Woodard

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