Civic Duty and Voting under Autocracy
62 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019 Last revised: 24 Feb 2020
Date Written: July 10, 2019
Conventional wisdom holds that clientelism and coercion are the major drivers of turnout under autocracy, but these factors are not relevant for most voters in contemporary regimes. Using original survey data from Russia, I present evidence that most voters feel an ethical obligation---a civic duty---to vote. I then develop a theory that links the duty to vote under autocracy with respect for the state. Since opposition voters are more likely to feel alienated from the state, I argue that regime supporters are more likely to evince a duty to vote. Using a previously validated measure of the duty to vote, I find evidence in Russia consistent with these arguments. The theory and findings suggest that authoritarian incumbents have an inherent mobilizational advantage: their supporters feel a duty to vote, but regime opponents do not. This is a novel explanation for the sustained weakness of opposition parties under autocracy.
Keywords: Authoritarianism, Voting, Russia, Turnout, Elections
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