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According to conventional wisdom, the traditional gender gap in voting has disappeared or even reversed in most established democracies. Drawing on the existing literature on sex differences in political engagement and on pioneering voter turnout theories, this article questions the conventional assumption and hypothesises that women still participate at lower rates in less important elections. It systematically tests this hypothesis by exploring the impact of sex on voter turnout in different electoral arenas. The empirical analyses of two cross-national datasets (Making Electoral Democracy Work and the European Election Study) demonstrate that although there is generally no gender gap in first-order elections, women tend to vote less than men in second-order contests. This reflects women’s weaker interest in politics and their lower levels of knowledge about politics in second-order electoral arenas.
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Title: Has the Gender Gap in Voter Turnout Really Disappeared?
Filip Kostelka,
1
André Blais, and Elisabeth Gidengil
This paper can be referred to as follows:
Kostelka, Filip, André Blais, and Elisabeth Gidengil, forthcoming,“Has the Gender Gap in
Voter Turnout Really Disappeared?”, West European Politics, doi:
10.1080/01402382.2018.1504486.
Acknowledgment
We thank Damien Bol, the members of the Research Chair in Electoral Studies at the University
of Montreal, the participants in the 2016 ECPR general conference in Prague, and this journal’s
reviewers and editors for helpful comments on the previous drafts of this manuscript.
1
filip.kostelka@sciencespo.fr
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Abstract:
According to conventional wisdom, the traditional gender gap in voting has disappeared
or even reversed in most established democracies. Drawing on the existing literature on sex
differences in political engagement and on pioneering voter turnout theories, this article
questions the conventional assumption and hypothesises that women still participate at lower
rates in less important elections. It systematically tests this hypothesis by exploring the impact
of sex on voter turnout in different electoral arenas. The empirical analyses of two cross-
national datasets (Making Electoral Democracy Work and the European Election Study)
demonstrate that although there is generally no gender gap in first-order elections, women tend
to vote less than men in second-order contests. This reflects women’s weaker interest in politics
and their lower levels of knowledge about politics in second-order electoral arenas.
3
The question of sex differences in electoral participation has a long pedigree in political
science (e.g. Gosnell, 1930; Tingsten 1963; Verba et al. 1978). Writing in 1955, Duverger (p.
14) highlighted “a problem of women non-voters.” Lower voting rates on the part of women
were typically attributed to social norms, structural and situational factors, or women’s late
enfranchisement (e.g. Norris 2002; Franklin 2004; Mayer 2010: 116). The latter explanation is
corroborated by the fact that in established democracies the gender gap in turnout gradually
shrank as new cohorts of women entered the electorate. Thus, by the turn of the 21st century,
Verba et al. (1997: 3) were referring to “the well-known equivalence in voter turnout” in U.S.
elections. More broadly, researchers have observed that, “traditional gender differences in
voting participation diminished in the 1980s and 1990s, or even reversed, in many advanced
industrialized countries” (Norris 2002: 96).
However, these optimistic assessments are mostly based on national elections. In
today’s era of multilevel governance, it is essential to examine the relationship between sex
and electoral participation at different levels of government. Drawing on pioneering works in
political science, recent research on sex differences in political engagement, and large-scale
survey data from national, subnational and supranational elections, we challenge the
widespread belief that established democracies have achieved full sex equality in voter turnout.
We start by formulating a theoretically grounded hypothesis regarding sex differences
in voter turnout in second-order elections. In line with earlier research, we argue that voting in
these elections is more strongly driven by political interest and political knowledge. When
asked in surveys, women in most established democracies express lower levels of political
interest and give fewer correct answers to political knowledge questions than men (Inglehart
1981; Verba et al. 1997; Burns et al. 2001; Gidengil et al. 2004; Stolle and Gidengil 2010;
Kittilson and Schwindt-Bayer 2010, Fraile 2014, Dassonneville and McAllister 2018).
Accordingly, we should expect a gender gap in turnout in second-order elections. We also
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discuss other potential explanations of sex inequality in voter turnout and explain why they are
unlikely to account for the difference between first-order and second-order elections. We
subsequently test these explanations along with our main hypothesis by including control
variables corresponding to the various explanatory factors.
We validate our theory with a systematic study of voting in different types of elections
using two different cross-national datasets that span 26 countries and include 42,415
respondents. Our analysis proceeds in three steps. First, we examine whether there is a gender
gap in turnout in different types of elections. Our analyses confirm that there is no gender gap
in first-order elections, which are typically elections to the national parliament. In contrast,
turnout tends to be higher among men in second-order elections, which comprise most
subnational and supranational elections. Second, we use a non-linear adaptation of the Blinder-
Oaxaca decomposition and logistic regressions to ascertain the sources of these gender gaps.
The results corroborate our expectations: the turnout gaps in second-order elections reflect sex
differences in political interest and political knowledge. Third, we conduct additional analyses
to show how political interest and political knowledge explain the varying effects of sex on
voter turnout across election types.
Theory and Hypotheses
The political science literature shows that sex inequalities persist in some non-electoral
forms of political participations such as protest participation, political persuasion and
campaigning (e.g. Inglehart and Norris 2003; Norris 2007; Coffé & Bolzendahl 2010; Ondercin
and Jones-White 2011; Beauregard 2014; Córdova and Rangel 2017). However, it is generally
considered that women vote at the same rate as men in most advanced democracies (Verba,
Burns and Schlozman 1997; Norris 2002; Mayer 2010). As a result, relatively little recent
research tackles sex differences in voter turnout (but see Harell 2009). Interestingly, two studies
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have reported as a secondary finding that women participate less than men in European
Parliament elections (Soderlund et al. 2011; Blais and Kostelka 2015). Women are also less
likely than men to vote in Swiss federal elections (Engeli et al. 2003; Stadelmann-Steffen and
Koller 2014).
2
We argue that these cases are not exceptions but reflect a broader pattern of sex
differences in participation between less important (second-order) and more important (first-
order) elections.
It has long been recognized that voter turnout depends heavily on psychological
engagement with politics, particularly in less important elections (Campbell 1960; Campbell
et al. 1960). According to this line of thought, the electorate can be divided into core voters,
who are politicised and interested in politics, and peripheral voters, who are less
psychologically involved in politics. While core voters go to the polls in most circumstances,
peripheral voters “have less intrinsic interest in political matters” and vote “only when there is
strong stimulation to do so” (Campbell 1960: 409).
Perhaps the most important criterion that determines the importance of an election in
an established democracy is election type. While voter turnout typically varies by only three
percentage points from one election to another election of the same type within countries (Blais
2007), the differences across election types often exceed ten percentage points.
3
Except for a
few specific cases discussed below, participation is considerably lower in subnational and
supranational elections. For a number of reasons, these electoral contests tend to be “low-
2
Córdova and Rangel’s (2017) results suggest that the traditional gender gap may still exist in national elections.
However, their Table A1 in the Electronic Appendix reveals that this is the case only in young democracies and
it is neither substantively nor statistically significant in any Western democracy but Switzerland.
3
For instance, in those countries and elections that we study below, the average within-country variance in official
voter turnout rates across election types reaches 12.5 percentage points (elections covered by the Making Electoral
Democracy Work project) and 26.1 percentage points (elections covered by the European Election Study).
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stimulus elections” (or second-order) when compared to “high-stimulus” (first-order) national
elections (Reif and Schmitt 1980). The stakes are lower in the former. The policy competence
of municipal, regional and European authorities is usually limited and, in most cases, the central
authorities have a preponderant say on the most important policy issues and manage the
greatest share of the public budget (Moravscik 2002). Moreover, in European Parliament (EP)
elections the link between election outcomes and policy seems particularly tenuous (Hix 2006).
Partly as a result of lower stakes, subnational and supranational elections tend to generate less
party mobilisation and parties’ campaign expenditures are usually much lower than in national
elections (van Klingeren et al. 2015). At the same time, media coverage is considerably less
intense than in national contests (de Vreese, Lauf and Peter 2007). In short, subnational and
supranational elections provide citizens with an environment that is less conducive to electoral
participation: the stakes are less clear, information is scarcer and social pressure to participate
is weaker.
The less voter friendly environment of second-order elections should particularly
impact citizens who are less interested in politics. Their feeble interest translates into a weak
intrinsic motivation to vote and a lack of information. If mobilisation by politicians, the media
and/or the community is weak, such peripheral voters can be expected to turn out in smaller
numbers. The act of voting in second-order elections is more demanding: it is costlier and less
rewarding. Citizens with little interest in politics are likely to vote in the most important
elections while eschewing in large numbers other electoral contests where the incentives to
participate are weaker. This implies that the differences in voter turnout between first-order
and second-order elections should be predominantly driven by variable participation on the
part of individuals with low interest in politics. From this perspective, voter “turnout in any
specific [type of] election is largely a question of how many of the less interested […] make
the effort to vote.” (Campbell 1960: 400).
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The degree of psychological involvement in politics can be measured in two ways. The
more traditional method relies on self-reported political interest. One of the strongest
individual-level predictors of voter turnout (Brady et al. 1995; Blais 2000), interest in politics
is typically acquired in the process of socialisation and remains largely stable throughout one’s
lifetime (Cambpell et al. 1960; Prior 2010). As a result, variation in turnout across election
types is unlikely to reflect variation in the degree of subjective political interest but rather
variation in the degree to which subjective interest matters for participation.
Another measure of psychological involvement in politics is political knowledge,
which has been found to foster voter turnout even after controlling for subjective political
interest (Coulson 1999; Milner 2002: 43-44; Larcinese 2007; Ondercin and Jones-White 2011).
This measure is different in nature since it is typically more context specific. Less politicised
citizens may be relatively knowledgeable about national-level political actors, thanks to
exposure to nationwide media, and yet show a sketchier grasp of subnational or supranational
politics. Such variation in political knowledge across levels of government reflects at least two
attributes that matter for voter turnout: the level of attention paid to the given political arena at
a particular moment of time and the availability of information. In contrast to subjective
political interest, variation in voter turnout is likely to be driven by variation in the amount of
political knowledge and less so by variation in the effect of political knowledge.
The scientific literature consistently shows that, despite the disappearance of gender
gaps in turnout in national elections, when asked in surveys, women express lower levels of
political interest and give fewer correct answers to political knowledge questions than men
(Inglehart 1981; Verba et al. 1997, Burns et al. 2001; Gidengil et al. 2004; Kittilson and
Schwindt-Bayer 2010; Fraile 2014, Dassonneville and McAllister 2018). Although this may be
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partially due to a gender bias in measurement
4
and does not necessarily apply to all
subdimensions of political interest (Campbell and Winters 2008; Coffee 2013), it is widely
held that these differences are generally nonetheless real and originate in the process of political
socialisation (Bennett and Bennett 1989; Verba, Burns and Schlozman 1997: 1070; Norris
2007: 733-735). This implies that women are overrepresented among peripheral voters who
have a lower propensity to vote in the absence of a strong stimulus (see also Harell 2009).
Consequently, although women may vote at the same rates as men in national electoral
contests, where the environment is the most conducive to participation, a gender gap can be
expected in second-order elections, where psychological engagement in politics matters more.
To some extent, voting in second-order elections is likely to resemble engagement in other,
more demanding, forms of political participation such as attending public meetings or joining
in a protest, where women still participate less than men largely due to their lower levels of
political interest and political knowledge (Verba, Burns and Schlozman 1997; Ondercin and
Jones-White 2011).
However, not all non-national elections are second-order and not all national elections
are first-order (see Schakel and Jeffery 2013). For instance, in subnational entities with a strong
regional identity, such as Catalonia or Quebec, the question of regional autonomy and the
presence of regional parties may increase the perceived stakes and hence interest in the regional
4
Mondak and Anderson (2004) estimate that as much as half of the gender gap in political knowledge is
attributable to sex differences in the propensity to guess. Other scholars have suggested that conventional
measures systematically underestimate women’s political knowledge because they implicitly limit the scope of
politics to the traditional arenas of electoral and legislative politics (Smiley 1999). However, even if political
knowledge questions are subject to these gender biases, this does not undercut their usefulness for predicting voter
turnout since, to some extent, voting is similar to answering a knowledge-based question: if women are unsure
about their preference, they may decide not to vote.
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election. This will be reflected in a voter turnout that is as high or even higher than in national
elections. In such cases, regional elections qualify as first-order elections and we can expect
women to be as likely to vote as men. Conversely, some national contests may be much less
mobilising because their outcomes are not consequential. This is exemplified by Switzerland,
where the most important decisions are taken through referenda and government composition
is determined by a long-term power-sharing deal (Franklin 2004, Blais 2014). In such second-
order national elections, peripheral voters participate less than core voters and so we can expect
women to vote at lower levels than men, since they are more likely to be peripheral voters.
Hypothesis 1: Women vote at the same rates as men in first-order elections but they
vote at lower rates in second-order elections.
Hypothesis 2: Women vote less than men in second-order elections because they are
less psychologically engaged in politics.
Psychological engagement in politics is not the only potential source of sex differences
in voter turnout. The scientific literature advances at least three other types of explanation for
why women may be less politically active than men (Norris 2007). They pertain to gendered
political practices and institutions, a lack of resources, and fewer opportunities to be mobilised.
However, in most cases, these explanations are unlikely to account for the sex difference in
voter turnout between first-order and second-order elections.
From the perspective of the current research question, the first factor is of little help. In
the case of EP elections, the gender gap is unlikely to be due to male-dominated institutions or
practices. In all EU member states, EP elections are run using proportional representation,
which tends to be favourable to female candidates (Kittilson and Schwindt-Bayer 2010).
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Accordingly, EP elections have systematically yielded a significantly higher share of female
deputies than national elections and “the European Parliament is heralded as one of the most
gender-equal elected bodies in the world” (Fortin-Rittberger and Rittberger 2014: 1).
The potential for sex differences in resources to explain the variation in the gender gap
in voter turnout across election types is also limited. Burns et al. (2001) find that the availability
of free time has no effect on the political participation of women or men, and that women who
work full-time and have children are actually more likely to participate than their stay-at-home
counterparts. Similarly, even though education, along with age, is the most important
individual predictor of voter turnout (Blais 2000: 52), in most developed countries women
today have higher average levels of educational attainment than men (cf. Pekkarinen 2012).
Moreover, a seminal study of the resource model of political participation concludes that
“political interest is much more important than resources if our main project is to explain voting
turnout (Brady at al. 1995: 283).
The third factor is party mobilisation. When media coverage is sparser, as it typically
is in second-order elections, the burden of direct mobilisation falls upon political parties. Given
that women are less likely than men to belong to a political party or to be involved in political
networks (Norris 2007), they may be more difficult to reach. As a result, men may be more
likely than women to be contacted by canvassers in second-order elections. In the same vein,
women are less likely to experience indirect mobilisation, given the gendered nature of
associational involvement and social networks. Women are more likely to belong to
associations that relate to the traditional domains of the home and community and that reinforce
their private sphere roles (Norris and Inglehart 2005). Importantly, there is less discussion of
politics in these female-dominated associations (Gidengil et al. 2005) and so women are less
likely to be exposed to mobilising influences. Similarly, women’s informal social networks
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tend to be less diverse than men’s (Gidengil et al. 2006). Whether these differences are
sufficiently strong to account for a gender gap in second-order elections is an open question.
Data and Methods
The following empirical analyses employ two datasets. The first comes from the
Making Electoral Democracy Work project (MEDW, Blais 2010; Stephenson et al. 2017). It is
particularly suitable for tackling our main research question since, in contrast to most available
alternatives, it provides the same kind of information about voter behaviour in elections at
different levels of government (national, subnational and supranational) and thus allows for
comparisons across election types. It contains survey data from five countries (Canada, France,
Germany, Spain and Switzerland), which were gathered between 2010 and 2015. In each
country, two sub-national administrative units (referred to here as ‘regions’) were studied.
5
Altogether, we use twenty-three samples: nine from national elections, nine from subnational
elections and five from supranational elections.
6
Another major advantage of these data is that
the surveys are short two-wave panels, conducted about one week before and one week after
the given election. All the independent variables tested below were measured before the
election whereas the dependent variable was measured afterwards. This allows for much
greater confidence in the direction of causality. The other dataset is the 2014 European Election
Study (EES) (Schmitt et al. 2016), which enables us to test our findings on a larger pool of 24
5
The samples are from Ontario and Quebec in Canada, Île de France and Provence in France, Lower Saxony in
Germany, Madrid and Catalonia in Spain; and Lucerne and Zürich in Switzerland.
6
The complete list can be found in the Electronic Appendix.
12
EU member states.
7
Another key advantage of the ESS data is that they allow for comparing
the same individuals in both national and European elections (but, importantly, not subnational
elections).
We distinguish five types of elections: national elections, subnational elections in
Catalonia and Quebec, subnational elections in other regions, supranational elections, and
Swiss elections.
8
As discussed above, we expect voters to consider the first two types of
electoral contests (national elections, and subnational elections in Catalonia and Québec) to be
more important than the other types. This is confirmed empirically in the MEDW surveys,
which asked citizens to rate the importance of the current election on a 0 to 10 scale. Table 1
shows that subnational elections in Catalonia and Quebec are seen to be as important as national
elections (i.e. the reference category). In contrast, the perceived importance of the other three
types is both substantively and significantly lower. Consequently, we refer to the first two
election types as “first-order” and the other three as “second-order”. We expect women to vote
at lower rates than men in second-order elections since participation in less important elections
is costlier and less gratifying for those who are less psychologically engaged in politics. It
should be emphasized that our theory does not postulate that perceived importance differs by
sex, and we find no sex difference.
9
7
The 24 countries are Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany,
Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia,
Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Countries that use compulsory voting are excluded.
8
Drawing on earlier research (Blais 2014), we expect national elections in Switzerland to be less relevant than in
other countries and we therefore pool them together with Swiss subnational elections. This analytical choice is
further validated by Table EA 6 in the Electronic Appendix, which shows that the estimated gender gap is of
comparable magnitude in both election types.
9
We reran the analysis presented in Table 1 including an interaction between sex and election types (see Table
EA 5). The results reveal that women rate all elections as less important than men do. Women may be more
13
We first measure the impact of sex on voter turnout in each type of election (Hypothesis
1).
10
Then, we test Hypothesis 2 via a non-linear decomposition of the effect of sex. Finally,
we explore in greater detail the variation in the explanatory factors by sex and election type.
Table 1 Perceived Importance of Election by Election Type (MEDW Data)
Election type
b
Subnational
-0.24
(0.10)*
Supranational
-2.02
(0.10)***
Swiss elections
-1.02
(0.09)***
Catalonia & Québec:
Subnational
0.08
(0.12)
Constant
7.12
(0.06)***
Observations
19,239
R2
0.07
Note: MEDW data. OLS Regression. The dependent variable is importance of the current election (scale ranged
from 0 to 10). The reference category is National Elections. The category Subnational does not include
subnational elections in Catalonia and Québec, which are a separate category. Robust standard errors in
parentheses. + p < 0.10, * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.
In the MEDW dataset, Interest is a self-reported rating of general political interest on a
scale from 0 (no interest in politics) to 10 (strong interest). To facilitate comparison with other
interested in local politics than men as some studies have found (Coffé 2013), but they do not rate local elections
as more important than men do or more important than national elections (in both cases, it is rather the opposite).
10
The data are weighted to correct for over-reporting and correspond to the real voter turnout rate. This weighting
has no impact on the substantive results of our study. More generally, it is true that a sex difference in over-
reporting could, in theory, affect our analysis. We cannot address this directly since we do not have a validated
measure of voter turnout at our disposal. However, previous studies of validated voter turnout (Karp and
Brockington 2005) and survey experiments (Morin-Chassé et al. 2017) did not find consistent or statistically
significant sex differences in over-reporting.
14
variables, we divide it by ten. Political knowledge is evaluated by asking respondents to match
pictures of party leaders competing in the election with their respective party names. In each
survey, there were typically 5 competing parties and 10 pictures (5 pictures of party leaders
and 5 pictures of other political personalities). The resulting variable Knowledge gives the
proportion of correct matches (between 0 and 1). In the EES data, Interest is a 4-point scale
recoded to vary between 0 and 1. The measure of political knowledge gives the share of correct
answers to two factual questions about the European Union (whether it is true that “Switzerland
is a member of the EU” and “Each Member State elects the same number of representatives to
the European Parliament”) and two questions about the national political system (whether
“there are [150 % of the correct number] members in the lower house of national parliament”
and whether [name of the head of government] belongs to [the name of the correct party]”).
When compared to the MEDW measure, the EES indicators tap knowledge that is less election-
specific and more likely to be acquired in school, thus providing a weaker measure of
psychological involvement in politics.
Controls are included for resources and exposure to mobilisation in order to test for
alternative explanations, as discussed in the previous section. In the MEDW data, resources
include Age (a continuous variable), Tertiary education (a dummy variable) and the fact of
having Children (a dummy variable).
11
Mobilisation corresponds to dummies that ascertain
whether the respondent was contacted by a political party (Party) or was encouraged to vote
for a political party by a friend (Friend), family member (Family) or spouse (Spouse). In the
EES data, in addition to the variables Age, Tertiary education and Children, which are
measured exactly the same as in the MEDW data, resources include dummy variables
pertaining to employment: Employed and Self-employed (the reference category being those
11
Unlike the EES data, the MEDW unfortunately does not offer variables pertaining to employment.
15
who declare no formal employment). The data also offer a ten-point social status scale (recoded
to vary between 0 and 1), where the extreme points correspond to the “lowest” and “highest”
levels in society, respectively. Mobilisation is operationalized through two dummies: Trade
union member and Party closeness. The latter is coded as 1 for those who report feeling close
to a political party.
Controls are also included for attachment to the given level of government, using the
extent to which citizens consider voting in the current election to be a civic duty on a scale
from 0 to 1 in the case of the MEDW data
12
and two dummy variables indicating attachment
to the European and national levels of government, respectively, in the case of the EES data.
More details and descriptive statistics are presented in the Appendix.
Findings
Election Type and the Gender Gap in Voter Turnout
To test our first hypothesis regarding the presence of a gender gap in voting in second-
order elections, we run a logistic regression for each election type. The dependent variable is
reported turnout and the main independent variable is the dummy Female. All models also
include election-region (or, in the EES, election-country) dummy variables. Our interpretation
is based on the average marginal effects (AME). These are average changes in the probability
of voting resulting from a one-unit change in the independent variable and are estimated using
the observed values method (Mood 2010).
The results presented in Table 2 clearly validate our expectations. The analyses of the
MEDW data show that the effect of sex in first-order elections is substantively small and
12
The use of a more direct question on attachment (Q43A-D) yields substantively similar results but, since the
variable is available only for a subset of surveys, we opt for the civic duty question.
16
statistically insignificant. In contrast, women participate substantially less in all types of
second-order elections: subnational, supranational, and Swiss. In those electoral contests, the
gender gap in the predicted probability of voting reaches 8, 9, and 16 percentages points,
respectively. We show in the Electronic Appendix that these differences also largely hold when
the data are broken down by country or region.
13
The EES data, which allow us to compare the participation of the same individuals in
different contests, give a similar picture. In national elections, there is no sex difference in
participation, but the difference is both substantively and statistically significant in
supranational elections. The substantive magnitude of this difference is smaller than in the
MEDW data, which is not surprising given that EES data contain a broader sample of countries
across which sex inequality varies. We explore this variation in Figure 1, which plots the
estimates of the gender gap in voter turnout in national and supranational election by country.
In addition, the figure plots the sex difference in the drop-off between national and
supranational elections, i.e. the difference between the share of women and the share of men
who vote in national elections but do not vote in EP elections. Following our theory, we
distinguish two groups of countries: those with a large sex difference in political interest and
those with a small difference.
14
In the latter group, which includes mostly North European
countries, women seem to vote at slightly higher rates than men and there is typically little
13
See Table EA 6. The only exception is the Madrid region where no significant gender gap was recorded in
subnational elections.
14
We use political interest since the subsequent analyses show that it accounts for a greater share of the gender
gap in voter turnout than political knowledge. The small sex difference group corresponds to the top 20 % of
countries with a substantively weak (<0.04) and, typically, statistically insignificant sex difference on the 0-1
scale of political interest.
17
difference between the national and supranational levels.
15
Likewise, the differences in the
national-supranational drop-off tend to be substantively small and statistically insignificant. By
contrast, in the former, more sex-differentiated group, women tend to vote at lower rates than
men in supranational elections but there is no consistent sex difference in national elections.
By the same token, the gender differences in drop-off rates tend to be larger and, in many cases,
statistically significant. This suggests that, in those countries in which women have less interest
in politics than their male counterparts, they vote at lower rates than men in supranational
elections.
Figure 1 Gender Gap in Voter Turnout by Country (EES data)
15
An important exception is Sweden where women vote at higher rates than men in supranational elections.
MEDW Data
EES Data
(1)
National
(2)
Catalonia
& Québec:
Subnational
(3)
Subnational
(4)
Supranational
(5)
Swiss
(6)
National
(7)
Supranational
Female
-0.02 (0.02)
-0.04 (0.04)
-0.08** (0.03)
-0.09*** (0.02)
-0.16*** (0.02)
-0.01 (0.01)
-0.04*** (0.01)
Election-region dummies
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Observations
6741
1550
3895
4127
3467
22635
22635
Pseudo R2
0.01
0.00
0.02
0.01
0.03
0.03
0.04
Predicted voting rate of
male respondents
0.67
0.74
0.61
0.51
0.54
0.68
0.45
19
Of course, we cannot draw far-reaching conclusions about individual cases since the
estimations plotted in Figure 1 suffer from noise due to sampling variance and relatively small
sample sizes. However, taken together, these patterns confirm that the aggregated results
presented in Table 2 are not driven by a few extreme country-case studies. They also provide
some preliminary evidence for Hypothesis 2, which we test with more advanced tools in the
next section.
Decomposing the Gender Gap in Voter Turnout in Second-Order Elections
To test Hypothesis 2, we employ an adaptation of the Blinder-Oaxaca decomposition
for non-linear regression models that was proposed by Fairlie (2005).
16
Decomposition is a
classic method for the analysis of political and economic inequalities in terms of sex or race
(Blinder 1973, Oaxaca 1973, Dow 2009, Kim 2010). Starting from a regression analysis, it
decomposes differences in mean outcomes across two groups into two parts: explained and
unexplained (see Equation 1). The explained part corresponds to group differences in the levels
of the independent variables and the unexplained part to group differences in the magnitude of
regression coefficients (as well as the constant and the contributions of unobserved variables,
see Fairlie 2005: 3). In the context of the current research question, the difference in mean
outcomes that we decompose is the difference between men’s and women’s average voting
rate as shown in Table 2. The explained part indicates how much of the gender gap in voter
turnout is due to unequal endowments in the factors we discussed above.
17
If Hypothesis 2 is
16
We executed the decomposition via the Stata package Fairlie (Jann 2008).
17
Following other studies using the decomposition methods (see Jones 1983, Fairlie 2005), we do not interpret
the unexplained part because of its ambiguity.
20
correct, sex differences in political interest and political knowledge account for most of the
gap.
Equation 1 The non-linear decomposition proposed by Fairlie 2005

 
 
 

Note: The M and W superscripts stand for Men and Women. The function F is logit.
The decomposition necessitates the choice of reference regression coefficients that are
applied to the explained part of the equation. Like Fairlie 2005, we opt for the regression
coefficients from a pooled regression model (including both male and female respondents)
18
but the alternative use of male () or female coefficients (yields very similar results.
The results of the decomposition are displayed in Tables 3 (MEDW data) and 4 (EES
data).
19
They show that differences in endowments explain most of the gender gap for all three
types of second-order election. The share of the explained part varies from 68 % in Swiss
elections to 102 % in subnational elections. The latter share suggests that, if women and men
had exactly the same levels for all the independent variables included in the regression model,
women’s voting rates would be slightly higher than men’s in non-Swiss subnational elections.
18
Following Fairlie 2005 (p. 309, footnote 8; see also Jann 2008: 458), the pooled model used for extracting the
coefficients contains the group dummy (Female).
19
Note that, as the decomposition includes only individuals with non-missing values on all the independent
variables, the measured gender gap is slightly larger than in Table 2.
Unexplained Part
Explained Part
21
Table 3 The Non-Linear Decomposition of the Effect of Sex (MEDW)
Election type
Subnational
Supranational
Swiss
Gender gap to explain
Turnout: men
0.627
0.530
0.551
Turnout: women
0.534
0.424
0.398
Gender gap
0.092
0.106
0.153
Total contributions
Part
Contribution
% of
gender gap
Contribution
% of
gender
gap
Contribution
% of
gender gap
Explained
0.094
101.9
0.082
77.1
0.105
68.4
Unexplained
-0.002
-1.9
0.024
22.9
0.048
31.6
Individual contributions to the explained part
Variable
Contribution
% of the
explained
part
Contribution
% of the
explained
part
Contribution
% of the
explained
part
Interest in politics
0.031***
33.5
0.024***
29.8
0.040***
38.0
Knowledge
0.032***
33.5
0.030***
37.2
0.047***
45.3
Age
0.007***
7.1
0.006***
7.8
0.001**
1.2
Tertiary education
0.004
4.2
0.001
1.0
0.008
7.8
Children
0.000
-0.4
-0.005***
-5.8
-0.001
-1.2
Mobilisation: Party
0.000
-0.5
0.003
3.8
0.000
0.1
Mobilisation: Friend
-0.002
-1.8
-0.001
-0.7
0.001
1.3
Mobilisation: Family
-0.002+
-2.2
0.000
-0.6
-0.004+
-3.4
Mobilisation: Spouse
0.000
0.1
0.005***
5.8
-0.001
-0.9
Duty to vote
0.015***
15.8
0.017***
20.8
0.009***
8.5
Region dummy 1
0.004
3.8
0.000
0.2
0.000
-0.1
Region dummy 2
0.000
0.2
0.000
-0.2
0.003**
2.5
Region dummy 3
0.000
0.5
0.000
0.1
0.000
0.0
Region dummy 4
0.005**
5.8
0.000
0.5
N
3759
3969
3384
Note: Regional dummies are Lower Saxony (1), Ontario (2), Marseille (3), Madrid (4), and Paris (reference) in
the case of subnational elections; Provence (1), IDF (2), Lower Saxony (3), Madrid (4), and Catalonia (reference)
in the case of supranational elections; and Lucerne national (1), Lucerne subnational (2), Zürich national (3) and
Zürich subnational (reference) in the case of case Swiss elections. + p < 0.10, * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.
22
Table 4 The Non-Linear Decomposition of the Effect of Sex (EES Data)
Note: The reference category for country dummies is France. + p < 0.10, * p < 0.05, ** p < 0.01, *** p < 0.001.
Importantly, the results strongly support Hypothesis 2. In all cases, interest in politics
and political knowledge account for at least two-thirds of the explained part. Interestingly, in
all types of elections in the MEDW data, the contributions of the two factors are comparable.
The only exception is the EES data, where knowledge of European politics explains much less
than interest in politics (the ratio is 18 % to 93 % of the explained part). This relatively weaker
Turnout: men
0.450
Turnout: women
0.400
Gender gap
0.044
Total contributions
Part
Explained
% of
gender
gap
Explained part
0.051
116 %
Unexplained part
-0.008
-18.2 %
Individual contributions to the explained part
Variable
Contribution
% of the
explained
part
Interest
0.041***
93.3
Knowledge (European)
0.008***
18.0
Age
-0.007***
-16.2
Tertiary education
0.001*
3.0
Children
0.001+
2.0
Employed
0.002+
3.4
Self-employed
0.002*
5.1
Social status
0.002***
4.5
Trade union Member
0.002***
4.5
Party Closeness
0.001***
1.6
Attachment(Europe)
0.000
1.6
Attachment (national)
0.000
-0.3
23 Country Dummies
(total contribution)
-0.001
-1.4
N
22635
23
contribution of political knowledge is consistent with the less election-specific nature of the
EES measure when compared to the MEDW measure (see Data and Methods).
With respect to the control variables, the only consistent and moderately strong
contribution comes from women’s tendency to consider voting in second-order elections as
less of a duty than men. It accounts for 9 % (Swiss elections) to 21 % (supranational elections)
of the explained part of the gender gap. The EES data nonetheless show that when perceptions
of different levels of government are measured on a more general level they have virtually no
explanatory power in terms of the gender gap in voter turnout.
To complement these analyses, we replicated logistic regressions of voter turnout from
Table 2 incorporating, in turn, the control variables, and political interest and political
knowledge as predictors. The results are presented in the Electronic Appendix (Tables EA 7
and 8) and, like the decomposition method, provide strong support for Hypothesis 2. In all
types of second-order elections, the gender gap in voter turnout remains substantively and
statistically significant in the presence of control variables, enabling us to rule out the
alternative explanations discussed above. In contrast, the inclusion of political interest and
political knowledge renders the gap negligible and statistically insignificant.
20
All in all, the results clearly validate the prediction that unequal psychological
engagement in politics is the major source of the gender gap in voter turnout in second-order
20
The only exception are Swiss elections where the gap is still significant but decreases from 11 to 5 percentages
points. This residual gap is probably due to the singularity of the history of female suffrage in Switzerland. As
Swiss women were enfranchised at the federal level only in 1971, it is possible that the effect of the lower degree
of psychological engagement in politics is reinforced by additional generational and cultural barriers to women’s
electoral participation.
24
elections. In the next subsection, we explore in greater detail the distribution of psychological
engagement by sex and by election type.
Sources of the Gender Gap in Interest and Knowledge
On average, men are more interested and know more about politics than women do.
This is evident from the results presented in Table 5. Models 1 and 3 simply regress Interest
and Knowledge on sex and indicate that women’s scores are significantly lower in every case
in both the MEDW and EES data. While interest, as expected, does not vary by election type
(see Model 2), Model 4 (MEDW data) and the difference between Models 6a and 6b (EES
data) corroborate our expectations and show that the gender gap in knowledge is larger in
second-order elections.
The question that remains to be answered is why the discrepancy in psychological
engagement in politics plays a smaller role in first-order than in second-order elections. The
level of interest in politics is not election-specific but our theory predicts that this factor matters
more in less mobilising contexts. When there are fewer incentives to vote, the impact of
political interest (or lack of it) can be expected to increase. To demonstrate this empirically,
we ran an additional analysis with the MEDW data, pooling all elections. We added a dummy
variable for second-order elections and an interaction between the dummy and Interest (see
Model 1 in Table EA 4 in the Electronic Appendix).
Dataset
MEDW
EES
(1)
(2)
(3)
(4)
(5)
(6a)
(6b)
Political Interest
Political Interest
Knowledge
Knowledge
Political Interest
Knowledge
(national)
Knowledge
(European)
b/se
b/se
b/se
b/se
b/se
b/se
b/se
Female
-0.08***
-0.08***
-0.10***
-0.07***
-0.10***
-0.07***
-0.11***
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
Female * Subnational in
Catalonia and Québec
0.01
-0.01
(0.02)
(0.02)
Female * Subnational
-0.02
-0.04+
(0.02)
(0.02)
Female * Supranational
-0.01
-0.04*
(0.02)
(0.02)
Female * Swiss
-0.00
-0.06**
(0.02)
(0.02)
Subnational in Catalonia
and Québec
-0.03+
-0.04**
(0.02)
(0.01)
Subnational
0.02
-0.19***
(0.01)
(0.01)
Supranational
-0.02+
-0.50***
(0.01)
(0.01)
Swiss
0.01
-0.21***
(0.01)
(0.02)
Tertiary education
0.05***
0.05***
0.10***
0.09***
0.12***
0.08***
0.14***
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
Constant
0.62***
0.62***
0.61***
0.79***
0.46***
0.65***
0.64***
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
(0.01)
Observations
19016
19016
19016
19016
22635
22635
22635
R2
0.03
0.03
0.04
0.30
0.05
0.04
0.06
26
Figure 2 Effect of Political Interest and Knowledge by Election Type
The left part of Figure 2 shows how the predicted probability of voting in first-order
and second-order elections varies as a function of interest in politics.
21
Fully in line with the
theory first advanced by Campbell in 1960 (see above), the probability of voting is the same
regardless of election type (slightly below 0.7) for high levels of interest in politics (score 1 on
the 0-1 scale). Moreover, as predicted, the weaker the interest, the larger is the difference in
the probability of voting in first-order and second-order elections. For the lowest values of self-
declared interest (0), the probability of voting is 48 percent in first-order elections but only 33
percent in second-order elections. The effect of political interest (the difference between 0 and
1) is thus much stronger in second-order elections (37 percentage points) than in first-order
elections (22 percentage points). This explains why the gender gap in interest matters much
more for voter turnout in second-order than in first-order elections. As an aside, this finding
21
The figure draws on average marginal effects, i.e. the predicted probabilities are calculated for all individuals
keeping these individuals’ characteristics at their original values except for Interest (in Model 1), Knowledge (in
Model 2), and Second-order elections.
27
has implications for other disadvantaged groups that are less interested in politics such as young
or less educated adults.
22
In contrast to interest in politics and, as our theory predicts, political knowledge is an
election-specific factor. We do not expect its effect to vary across election types and indeed it
does not, as the right part of Figure 2 reveals (see also Model 2 in Table EA4). However, as
we have noted above, the gender gap in knowledge is larger in second-order elections. Men are
better able than women to identify the political leaders who run in the most important elections,
but the discrepancy is even larger in less important contests.
Discussion
The findings confirm the conventional wisdom in political science that there is no
gender gap in voter turnout in national elections in Western democracies. There is also no
evidence of sex differences in subnational elections that are seen to be important by voters. The
gap, however, still exists in second-order elections: subnational and supranational elections in
most countries and regions, and both national and cantonal elections in Switzerland. The
optimistic assessment that sex has no effect on turnout, dominant in the scientific literature,
needs to be revisited. We have identified two reasons why women participate at lower rates
than men in these contests.
First, as has been well documented by earlier work, women are less interested in
politics. Drawing on classic political science theories, we show that this sex difference matters
22
In the Electronic Appendix, we present additional analyses to show that young adults, parents and less educated
respondents are more likely to drop out of voting in supranational elections and that this effect is diminished once
political interest is controlled for (see Table EA 13).
28
more in less mobilising contexts. In elections of lower importance, the fact of being
(un)interested in politics matters more. With respect to subnational elections, our results show
that even if women are more interested in local issues than men as earlier studies suggest, this
does not compensate for the lack of interest in politics in general and does not prevent a gender
bias in turnout.
23
Second, as in the case of political interest, there seems to be a persistent sex
difference in political knowledge that is detrimental to women’s electoral participation. This
difference is amplified in less important electoral arenas. Controlling for these two factors
effectively eliminates (or, in the Swiss case, substantially reduces) the gender gap in voting in
second-order elections.
The best way to eliminate the gender bias in second-order elections is to reduce the sex
differences in political interest and political knowledge. This may prove particularly difficult
given their tenacity despite the reduction of gender inequalities in other areas. As noted above,
their roots are typically seen in the process of political socialisation. This means that change
has to come essentially through generational replacement as a result of a transformation in the
way that young people construct their political identity and learn about politics. Such a
transformation may necessitate a targeted action plan by public authorities, whose benefits may
extend well beyond full gender equality at the ballot box.
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Supplementary resource (1)

... One of the major discrepancies in voting research between survey data and validated survey data concerns the likelihood of men and women to vote. By relying on selfreported measures of turnout, most cross-national surveys suggest that there exists a gender gap in electoral participation (Córdova and Rangel, 2017;Isaksson et al., 2014;Kittilson and Schwindt-Bayer, 2012;Kostelka et al., 2019;Robinson and Gottlieb, 2021;Solijonov, 2016). Yet, the little research we have that compares self-reported turnout to individuals' official voting record disconfirms this gender gap in favour of men (Ansolabehere and Schaffner, 2017;MacManus, 2018). ...
... There are two strands of research. First, most comparative studies concur that, as a general rule, men are still more likely to vote than women (Blais and Kostelka, 2015;Bratton et al., 2010;Córdova and Rangel, 2017;Engeli et al., 2006;Isaksson et al., 2014;Kittilson and Schwindt-Bayer, 2012;Kostelka et al., 2019;Robinson and Gottlieb, 2021;Söderlund et al., 2011). To name a few examples, Kittilson and Schwindt-Bayer (2012) find that women report lower turnout in 21 of 31 mainly Western democracies. ...
... If we look at large-scale international survey programmes instead of single studies, we find that most of these survey programmes tend to confirm this higher voting propensity for men. These survey programmes include the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES) (Córdova and Rangel, 2017;Kittilson and Schwindt-Bayer, 2012), the World Values Survey (WVS) (Solijonov, 2016), the European Election Study (EES) (Kostelka et al., 2019;Söderlund et al., 2011), the Afrobarometer (Bratton et al., 2010;Isaksson et al., 2014;Robinson and Gottlieb, 2021), and the European Election Database (Blais and Kostelka, 2015). 1 The three survey programmes which shed some doubt on this gender gap is the International Social Survey Program (ISSP), the AmericasBarometer, and the Asian Barometer Survey from 2010. The two versions of the ISSP module on citizenship, which include 18 and 33 countries, respectively, find inconclusive results with regard to who votes more, men or women. ...
Article
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Is there a gender gap in voting? Most cross-national survey research on gender inequalities in voter turnout finds that men have a higher probability to vote than women. Yet, some studies using validated turnout data shed some doubt on this finding. We revisit the question of a gender gap in voting using official records. In more detail, we compare the gender gap in turnout between survey data and official electoral figures across 73 elections. Our results highlight that in surveys, men still report higher turnout in most countries. However, official electoral figures reveal contrasting trends: across countries, women are, on average, more likely to vote. We also test two explanations for this difference in turnout between official figures and surveys: (1) men over-report voting more than women and (2) the survey samples of men and women are different. We find some, albeit very moderate, evidence for the first explanation. We find some, albeit very moderate, evidence for the first explanation and no support for the second explanation. All in all, our research nevertheless suggests that scholars should be careful in using surveys to detect gender differences in voting.
... Les hommes votent-ils moins que les femmes ? Si la question ne fait pas l'unanimité (voir Duval, 2005 : 14) ou ne peut s'appliquer à tous les contextes électoraux (Kostelka et al., 2019), cela semble vrai au Québec. L'analyse générationnelle de la participation électorale en fonction du sexe montre que les femmes, en particulier depuis la génération née dans les années 1980, sont plus nombreuses à exercer leur droit de vote que les hommes (Gélineau et Teyssier, 2012) 4 . ...
... Plus important encore, cela n'est pas sans poser des défis à la démocratie représentative et à ses institutions traditionnelles ». 4. Fait intéressant, la tendance inverse a été observée à l'occasion des élections municipales québécoises de 2017 : les hommes voteraient davantage que les femmes (Dubois et Gélineau, 2021). Cela pourrait s'expliquer par le fait que les femmes ont généralement moins tendance à voter aux élections de second-ordre, selon une enquête internationale récente (Kostelka et al., 2019). ...
Technical Report
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Le présent rapport de recherche s’inscrit en continuité avec les travaux antérieurs qui tentent de comprendre les causes de la participation électorale aux élections québécoises. L’étude cherche parallèlement à identifier les sources de l’abstentionnisme d’un point de vue quantitatif. Le phénomène ayant déjà fait l’objet d’analyses antérieures chez les jeunes (Dostie-Goulet et al., 2012) ainsi que dans une perspective plus qualitative (Steben-Chabot, 2016), la présente analyse vient complémenter les connaissances à ce sujet. Finalement, 10 ans après le scrutin de 2008 qui a fait l’objet d’une analyse par des chercheurs de la Chaire de recherche sur la démocratie et les institutions parlementaires (Gélineau et Morin-Chassé, 2009), ce rapport met en perspective les résultats obtenus lors de cette élection avec ceux de l’enquête administrée en 2018.
... Researchers looked at everything from age and gender to religious affiliation, occupation, income level, education level, and pure motivation in the voters. (Blais & Daoust, 2020;Chapman & Palda, 1983;Fauvelle-Aymar & François, 2006;Kostelka, Blais, & Gidengil, 2019;Leighley, 1995;McClendon & Riedl, 2015;Wolfinger, 1980). The impact of the range of policy options accessible to voters, or party polarization, is understudied in turnout studies. ...
... Even though the gender gap in voting turnout has narrowed (and even reversed) in advanced democracies (Norris 2001), recent research shows that this is only the case for national and other "high-profile" elections, but women continue to participate less than men in "second-order" elections (Kostelka, Blais, and Gidengil 2019;Stauffer and Fraga 2021), as well as in other parts of the political system. Several studies show that women are less likely to participate in everyday political conversations (Hansen 1997;Nir and McClurg 2015) and to speak in formal deliberative settings (Beauvais 2019;Karpowitz and Mendelberg 2014;Karpowitz, Mendelberg, and Shaker 2012). ...
Article
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Research on democratic attitudes has recently turned to examine citizens’ views about the performance of specific democratic institutions in their country. Drawing on data from the European Social Survey (ESS6) and the Bright Line Watch Project (BLW) in the United States, this article argues that such evaluative questions carry high levels of cognitive complexity that lead to gender gaps in item response rates. We then show that those gender gaps are present at every level of political knowledge and tend to be wider the less respondents know about the political system. Since women also tend to be more critical of democratic institutions, these results indicate that item non-response biases can make researchers underestimate overall levels of dissatisfaction with democracy, as well as overlook specific groups that may be particularly dissatisfied with the performance of certain parts of the democratic system.
... Esto con el objetivo de entender que factores pueden explicar esta diferencia. Siguiendo una metodología similar a la presentada por Kostelka, Blais & Gidengil (2019), se plantea una descomposición de Blinder-Oaxaca 23 para identificar que parte de la diferencia en participación electoral por género puede ser explicada por diferencias en las características (edad, nivel educativo, zona de residencia) entre hombres y mujeres (parte explicada); y que parte puede ser atribuida a variables omitidas o a la existencia de algún tipo de discriminación (parte inexplicada). ...
Article
La introducción del concepto de Cosecha Asistida en la recolección de café en Colombia implica la adopción de tres prácticas que pueden usarse de manera aditiva y escalarse independientemente del tamaño de la finca: retención de pases, recolección con lonas y uso de la Derribadora DSC18. Las pruebas de campo indican que el aumento en la masa de café cosechable producto de la retención, más la reducción de movimientos para desprender los frutos del árbol al usar las lonas, pueden incrementar la eficiencia de la recolección en un 40%, y que el uso de la máquina DSC-18 puede aumentar esa eficiencia en 180% en promedio. La reducción del costo unitario (COP/kg), que puede ser de un 50% o más, permite un margen de maniobra donde el recolector y el productor de café puedan acordar precios de cosecha que generen ganancias para ambas partes. De esta manera, la Cosecha Asistida contribuye a mejorar la rentabilidad en la finca a través de beneficios económicos por una mayor productividad de la mano de obra en la labor de recolección, y favorece a los recolectores haciendo más cómoda y eficiente su labor, con una mejor remuneración.
... Education is positively correlated with voting (Blais, 2000;Smets and van Ham, 2013). 2 Age is important for turnout, as the likelihood of voting increases with age until around 55, when it then begins to level off (Blais, 2000: 49-50). Previous research has also shown that men typically vote more than women, however, the gender gap has receded in recent years across the West (Kostelka et al., 2019). Voting is also negatively related to urbanization (Smets and van Ham, 2013). ...
Article
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Previous research into the relationship between income inequality and turnout inequality has produced mixed results, as consensus is lacking whether inequality reduces turnout for all income groups, low-income earners, or no one. Therefore, this paper builds on this literature by introducing supply-side logic, through the first individual-level test of the impact that income inequality (moderated by policy manifesto positions) has on turnout. It does so through multilevel logistic regressions utilizing mixed effects, on a sample of 30 advanced democracies in 102 elections from 1996 to 2016. It finds that higher levels of income inequality significantly reduce turnout and widen the turnout gap between rich and poor. However, it also finds that when party systems are more polarized, low-income earners are mobilized the greatest extent coupled with higher inequality, resulting in a significantly reduced income gap in turnout. The findings magnify the negative impacts income inequality can exert on political behavior and contribute to the study of policy offerings as a key moderating mechanism in the relationship.
... Questions about why people turn out to vote and the source of variation in that turnout have intrigued political scientists for decades. Researchers have examined the characteristics of the electorate, from age and gender to religious affiliation, occupation, income level, education level and sheer motivation (Wolfinger and Rosenstone 1980;Chapman and Palda 1983;Powell 1986;Leighley 1995;Fauvelle-Aymar and François 2006;McClendon and Riedl 2015;Kostelka et al., 2019;Blais and Daoust 2020). Others have looked to the context (e.g., electoral rules, number of parties, timing of elections and state of the economy) in which elections occur, to account for varying levels of participation (Caldeira and Patterson 1985;Chapman and Palda 1983;Powell 1986;Jackman 1987;Blais and Carty 1990;Matsusaka 1993;Franklin 2004;Fauvelle-Aymar and François 2006;Kato 2008;Ezrow and Xezonakis 2016;Gerber and Green 2016;Hajnal et al., 2017). ...
Article
What effect does party polarization have on voter turnout? Focusing largely on polarization as a (negative) indicator of party indifference, the existing empirical work has found mixed results. We re-examine this question, recognizing that polarization influences voters through perceptions of both alienation and indifference; we argue that the effect of polarization depends on the position of the voter relative to the party options. We introduce a new relative measure of polarization and test its effect on turnout in the two-rounds of the French presidential elections. We find that where a voter stands relative to the spread of party options is a significant predictor of turnout. If parties are either far away from the voter or are indistinguishable from each other, there is little incentive to turn out. On the other hand, party polarization leads to higher participation when the voter is close to one party and far from another.
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Numerous contributions to the literature show that religious activities and civic participation are positively correlated. The available studies, however, are mostly based on cross-sectional data and thus rarely control for factors that simultaneously affect both variables. In this paper, using panel data on Poland, we check whether the relationship in question is robust to controlling for municipality-level fixed effects, time-fixed effects, and several time-varying factors. As a proxy for the level of religiosity we use data on religious observance, whereas as a proxy for civic participation we look at electoral turnout. Our results robustly show that municipalities with higher measures of church attendance exhibit higher voter turnout. This, in turn, gives some credence that the relationship between religious commitment and civic participation might be causal.
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Voting in one election increases one's propensity to vote in the future. It remains unclear, however, whether this pattern holds when voting is compulsory – as is the case in a quarter of all democracies. Is compulsory voting habit-forming? I address this question using a regression discontinuity design and administrative turnout data from Brazil, where voting is voluntary at age 16 and compulsory at age 18. I find no evidence that compulsory voting instils voting habits. Instead, the evidence points to a first-time compulsory voting boost, which gradually dissipates as voters grow older. I show that targeted mobilisation of first-time compulsory voters is a plausible mechanism behind the turnout boost. Alternative explanations find less support in the data. The results clarify the scope conditions of prior research on voting habits, and have important implications for the debate over the second-order effects of compulsory voting.
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If two elections are held at the same day, why do some people choose to vote in one but to abstain in another? We argue that selective abstention is driven by the same factors that determine voter turnout. Our empirical analysis focuses on Sweden where the (aggregate) turnout gap between local and national elections has been about 2–3%. Rich administrative register data reveal that people from higher socio-economic backgrounds, immigrants, women, older individuals, and people who have been less geographically mobile are less likely to selectively abstain.
Technical Report
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In the view of the 2014 European elections and the increasing number of EU-related referendums held throughout the EU Member States, the Committee on Constitutional Affairs aims to update its expertise in the legal framework of campaign financing across the European Union. This study is intended to fulfil this aim. In some EU countries, regulations on party expenditures have been well established for several decades. However, in recent years, new Member States in particular have established a comprehensive set of rules on party financing, leading to clearer regulations about who receives public funding for what purpose, reducing corruption and generating more transparency. This study presents the most recent updates (the situation as of September 1, 2014) to the regulations on party financing for election, referendum and issue campaigns in all 28 Member States. Furthermore, this study presents an inventory of party expenditure in a carefully chosen sample of the EU Member States (Bulgaria, Croatia, Denmark, Latvia, the Netherlands, Spain and the United Kingdom) during general, European election and EU referendum campaigns. Finally, we conclude with a brief discussion of the Statute for the European Political Parties in light of the findings in this study. In doing so, we pay particular attention to the discussion about whether or not to allow European-level parties to use EU funding to finance EU referendum campaigns.
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Researchers studying electoral participation often rely on post-election surveys. However, the reported turnout rate is usually much higher in survey samples than in reality. Survey methodology research has shown that offering abstainers the opportunity to use face-saving response options succeeds at reducing overreporting by a range of 4–8 percentage points. This finding rests on survey experiments conducted in the United States after national elections. We offer a test of the efficacy of the face-saving response items through a series of wording experiments embedded in 19 post-election surveys in Europe and Canada, at four different levels of government. With greater variation in contexts, our analyses reveal a distribution of effect sizes ranging from null to minus 18 percentage points. (http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2016.31)
Book
De la discussion politique à la manifestation de rue, du vote à la consommation engagée, de la grève des urnes à celle de l'impôt ou à l'Internet militant, cet ouvrage porte un regard novateur sur une question centrale en démocratie : la "participation politique". Une participation foisonnante, multiforme, contournant les canaux institutionnels, débordant les frontières de l'État nation, mais toujours inégalitaire. Il présente les grands modèles explicatifs et leurs applications concrètes, les auteurs marquants, les concepts clés de la sociologie politique contemporaine, tant française qu'étrangère, ainsi que les principaux débats qui la traversent. S'appuyant sur les grandes enquêtes tant hexagonales (Cevipof) qu'internationales (ESS, Enquêtes valeurs, ISSP) depuis les années 60, l'auteur resitue le cas français dans une perspective historique, comparative et interdisciplinaire. Autant d'atouts qui font de ce livre un outil indispensable pour penser la redéfinition des frontières du politique, et la référence pour aborder la "crise" de la représentation que traversent toutes les démocraties occidentales.
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Successive studies have found a persistent gender gap in political knowledge. Despite much international research, this gap has remained largely impervious to explanation. A promising line of recent inquiry has been the low levels of women's elected representation in many democracies. We test the hypothesis that higher levels of women's elected representation will increase women's political knowledge. Using two large, comparative data sets, we find that the proportion of women elected representatives at the time of the survey has no significant effect on the gender gap. By contrast, there is a strong and significant long-term impact for descriptive representation when respondents were aged 18 to 21. The results are in line with political socialization, which posits that the impact of political context is greatest during adolescence and early adulthood. These findings have important implications not only for explaining the gender knowledge gap, but also for the impact of descriptive representation on political engagement generally.
Article
This note presents a new electoral studies research program that will examine party and voter behaviour in 27 elections (national, supra-national, and sub-national) in five countries (Canada, France, Germany, Spain, and Switzerland) and that includes a series of experiments designed to complement the analyses of these 27 elections. The purpose is to ascertain how the rules of the game, especially the electoral system, and the competitiveness and salience of elections influence the reciprocal relationship between voters and parties.
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Logistic regression estimates do not behave like linear regression estimates in one important respect: They are affected by omitted variables, even when these variables are unrelated to the independent variables in the model. This fact has important implications that have gone largely unnoticed by sociologists. Importantly, we cannot straightforwardly interpret log-odds ratios or odds ratios as effect measures, because they also reflect the degree of unobserved heterogeneity in the model. In addition, we cannot compare log-odds ratios or odds ratios for similar models across groups, samples, or time points, or across models with different independent variables in a sample. This article discusses these problems and possible ways of overcoming them.
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In light of gender disparities in political involvement, extant research has examined mechanisms for incorporating ordinary women into politics. We complement this literature by exploring the effect of an overlooked institution theorized to promote political equality by maximizing voter turnout: compulsory voting. We theorize that in enforced compulsory voting systems, women are more likely to receive and seek information about electoral choices than their counterparts in voluntary voting systems. Consequently, compulsory voting helps narrow the gender gap beyond voting by creating opportunities and motivations for women to engage with the electoral process and its main actors. Our multilevel analysis based on cross-national survey data lends strong support to our hypotheses. Countries with enforced mandatory voting laws display a much smaller gender gap not only in voting, but also in several other forms of electoral engagement, including political party information, campaign attentiveness, party attachment, and campaign participation.