Young Citizens' Civic Engagement and Civic Attitudes: A Regression Discontinuity Analysis
Political Behavior, Vol. 45, pp. 265-284, March 2023
66 Pages Posted: 7 Jul 2017 Last revised: 18 Mar 2023
Date Written: November 24, 2020
Although reaching the voting age and getting enrolled in the voters' list is an essential first step in the electoral process, existing studies have rarely investigated its effects on citizens' socio-political experiences and civic attitudes. To fill this gap, we leverage a natural experiment in Japan, where citizens who turn eighteen years old and become eligible to vote in elections are automatically registered. For this inquiry, just after the 2016 House of Councillors election in Japan, we invited thousands of seventeen- and eighteen-year-old Japanese citizens to take an on-line survey. The results of our exact-date-of-birth regression discontinuity analysis suggest that becoming eligible to vote increases young citizens' interaction with other voters and facilitates their information acquisition efforts before the election. Therefore, obtaining vote eligibility for an upcoming election is accompanied by some degree of increased civic engagement. However, it is not enough to change their civic attitudes, such as trust in government and a sense of efficacy in the democratic process. We argue that the intensity of civic engagement under the automatic registration system is weak due to the lack of citizens' self-initiated actions for the registration itself.
Keywords: civic engagement, civic attitudes, voter registration, voting eligibility, young voters, regression discontinuity, Japan
JEL Classification: D72
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation