Chapter

Consequences of Lowering the Voting Age to 16: Lessons from Comparative Research

Authors:
  • Trinity College Connecticut
To read the full-text of this research, you can request a copy directly from the author.

Abstract

Two quasi-mechanical forces push in different directions when we consider consequences of lowering the voting age to 16. On the one hand, lowering the voting age would provide votes to young adults still in school and living in their parental homes. These circumstances should (theory tells us) boost the turnout of those individuals not only at their first election but throughout their ensuing lifetimes. Considering that the previous such reform (lowering the voting age to 18) had the opposite consequences (as this chapter explains), finding a way to undo the deleterious consequences of that reform has a high priority in the minds of many, and Votes at 16 might just do the trick. On the other hand, are sixteen-year-olds mature enough to understand the consequences of their party choices? Or might they rather simply vote more-or-less at random, adding to the volatility of election outcomes that has already been growing apace in recent years? This chapter uses empirical evidence from historic cases in an attempt to evaluate these possibly countervailing effects.

No full-text available

Request Full-text Paper PDF

To read the full-text of this research,
you can request a copy directly from the author.

... Based on aggregate turnout data our results show that the horizontal franchise extension to non-national EU-citizens contributed to local turnout decline, while the vertical extension had no immediate effect on turnout. While this does not strictly support recent findings that these youngest voters might strengthen long-term net increase in turnout (Franklin 2020), it weakens arguments against lowering the voting age (Chan and Clayton 2006). ...
... Based on the literature on historical and contemporary franchise extension, we have distinguished horizontal from vertical franchise extensions and argued that these have different effects on voter turnout. Firstly, and adding to the nascent field of local electoral research, our results do not support recent findings that vertical franchise extensions to 16-and 17-year-olds strengthen long-term net increase in local turnout (Franklin 2020). However, our findings weaken arguments against lowering the voting age to these young voters (Chan and Clayton 2006). ...
Article
Full-text available
Local turnout has declined in many European countries, posing challenges to the inclusiveness and representativeness of elections. One response proposed to address this challenge are franchise extensions to new groups of voters. Distinguishing between horizontal extensions to non-national EU-citizens and vertical extension to 16- to 18-year-olds, we analyse their effects on voter turnout in the context of German local council elections. The country’s federal system enables us to analyse the effects on voter turnout in 13 states from 1978 until 2019. We find that the horizontal franchise extension is associated with a subsequent drop in overall turnout at German local council elections. By contrast, vertical franchise extensions do not affect turnout. The findings temper expectations concerning the ability of local franchise extensions to boost democratic legitimacy via increased participation.
... An even if it were so, the fact that children are enrolled in schools can palliate the threat of this responsibility taking over their free time and play (Umbers, 2020, p. 738). One could conceive of civic education classes during school time (which is already not free nor time for play) targeted particularly to children's acquisition of political information, and as a forum for debate on the different positions and candidates on the ballot (Franklin, 2020;Mahéo & Bélager, 2020). ...
Article
Full-text available
Children are among the few social groups that are systematically and universally disenfranchised. Although children are citizens worthy of equal moral treatment and rights, their right to vote is restricted in almost all states, and this is seen as legitimate by most democratic theories. What is particular about childhood that justifies the restriction of their right to vote? How can democratic systems legitimise the exclusion of a section of their citizenry? This article provides a critical analysis of the principles that ground child disenfranchisement, and of the allocative mechanisms proposed for restricting the right to vote. It shows that most arguments in favour of child disenfranchisement are unsatisfactory, as they are inconsistently used to target the child population (but not other groups) or are incompatible with a commitment to equality. Among the principles for child disenfranchisement, only those that appeal to political incompetence may be valid for excluding children. Regarding the allocative method of exclusion, this article shows that age thresholds cannot be justified to restrict franchise, and that, while competence tests fare better in theory, there may be issues of implementation. The article contributes by providing a clear and systematic analysis of the core arguments in favour of child disenfranchisement, and the conditions that must be met to justify such a practice.
... On this question, the evidence is quite mixed from one country to the next, and even within countries. Franklin (2020) finds that there is a moderate rise in voter volatility when the voting age is lowered. Young people may switch their vote more often than the older voters. ...
Article
Full-text available
Research into the possible consequences of lowering the voting age to 16 used to be rather speculative in nature, as there were few countries that had implemented earlier enfranchisement. This has changed over the past decade. We now have a range of countries in different locations, mostly in Europe and South America, where 16- and 17-year-olds can vote in some or all elections. In many of those places empirical research has given us insights into the experiences of young people and the impact of those changes on political discussions. However, so far these studies have largely been conducted individually in each country, which makes comparisons difficult. This article summarises the key insights from empirical research across countries with lower voting ages. It identifies common patterns, but also highlights differences. Overall, the impact appears to not be negative and often positive in terms of political engagement and civic attitudes. However, the comprehensiveness of effects varies. The article offers some possible frameworks to understand differences, in particular by reflecting on the processes that led to voting franchise changes, but also indicates where gaps in knowledge remain, and what sort of research would be required to produce systematically comparable results.
... Should it be a consideration in the durability of the lowering of the franchise to 16, which has not been reversed in any country where it has taken place? There is academic evidence that 16-and 17-year-olds, home-based, less mobile and without the transience on the electoral register associated with the large student body of 18-to 24-year-olds, are more settled in their lives and likelier to vote, which may increase their chances of continuing to do so in later years (Franklin, 2020). This noted, 18-to 24-year-old turnout represents a low bar above which to leap. ...
Article
Full-text available
The UK is now a multi-level polity with asymmetrical minimum ages of enfranchisement. The franchise was first extended to 16- and 17-year-olds in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum. The Scottish and Welsh governments now permit 16- and 17-year-olds to vote in elections to their devolved parliaments and local councils. The Northern Ireland Executive and the devolved authorities in England do not, however, have the power to change the voting age, and across all four nations of the UK, the age of franchise remains 18 for elections to the Westminster Parliament. The previous extension of the age of franchise, from 21 to 18 in 1969, attracted little controversy or political partisanship. But while there has been considerable political consensus regarding voting age reform in Scotland and Wales, debate over ‘Votes-at-16’ for Westminster elections has witnessed growing party-based partisanship. This article draws upon elite interviews with politicians across the political spectrum elected to Westminster and the devolved institutions on their attitudes to voting age reform, conducted as part of a 2-year Leverhulme Trust ‘Lowering the Voting Age in the UK’ project. The article argues that the multi-level party politics of the ‘Votes-at-16’ debate has consolidated rival party opinions on voting age reform at Westminster but not beyond.
Article
en The decline in youth participation in elections has been an ongoing concern in Australia, in spite of the requirement for compulsory turnout. In 2018, and in response to these concerns, the Australian parliament debated an electoral amendment that would lower the national voting age to 16 years. The Bill, however, did not succeed even though two opposition parties—the Australian Labor Party and the Australian Greens—supported the reform and the Morrison Government accepted the premise that youth electoral disengagement was a troubling phenomenon. Drawing on veto player theory, this article examines how the legislative dynamics intersected with partisan self-interest and party value priorities to undercut the case for lowering the voting age to 16. The Australian case highlights the ways in which latent ideological differences among parties can serve to divide them on the inclusiveness of franchise, and the democratic goals to be served by voting. Related Articles Cormack, Lindsey. 2019. “Leveraging Peer-to-Peer Connections to Increase Voter Participation in Local Elections.” Politics & Policy 47 (2): 248-266. https://doi.org/10.1111/polp.12297 Fisher, Patrick. 2020. “Generational Replacement and the Impending Transformation of the American Electorate.” Politics & Policy 48 (1): 38-68. https://doi.org/10.1111/polp.12340 Ike, Vivian. 2020. “The Impact of Veto Players on Incremental and Drastic Policy Making: Australia's Carbon tax Policy and its Repeal.” Politics & Policy 48 (2): 232-264. https://doi.org/10.1111/polp.12346 Abstract es Valores, interés partidista y la edad de votar: lecciones de Australia La disminución de la participación de los jóvenes en las elecciones ha sido una preocupación constante en Australia, a pesar del requisito de participación obligatoria. En 2018, y en respuesta a estas preocupaciones, el parlamento australiano debatió una enmienda electoral que reduciría la edad nacional para votar a 16 años. Sin embargo, el proyecto de ley no tuvo éxito a pesar de que dos partidos de la oposición, el Partido Laborista Australiano y los Verdes australianos, apoyaron la reforma y el Gobierno de Morrison aceptó la premisa de que la desconexión electoral de los jóvenes era un fenómeno preocupante. Sobre la base de la teoría del jugador con veto, este artículo examina cómo la dinámica legislativa se cruzó con el interés propio de los partidos y las prioridades de valor del partido para socavar el caso de reducir la edad para votar a 16 años. El caso australiano destaca la existencia de diferencias ideológicas que dividen a los partidos en el sufragio y las diferentes concepciones de los objetivos democráticos que se alcanzarán mediante la votación. Abstract zh 价值、党派利益和投票年龄:从澳大利大得出的经验 尽管存在强制参与选举的要求,但青年人选举参与率下降一直是澳大利亚的一个持续关切。2018年,为响应该关切,澳大利亚议会就一项将全国投票年龄降低至16岁的选举修订案进行辩论。不过,该法案并未取得成功,尽管两个反对党—澳大利亚工党和绿党—支持改革,并且莫里森政府接受“青年人不参与选举是一个麻烦现象”这一假设。基于否决者理论,本文分析了立法动态如何与党派自身利益及党派价值重点相交叉,以削弱将投票年龄降至16岁这一情况的效果。澳洲案例强调了意识形态差异的存在,这种差异通过选举权和由投票完成的不同民主目标概念来区分各党。
Article
One reform considered for increasing voter turnout rates is to lower the voting age to 16 years old. Advocates of such a reform argue that young people would vote for the first time while they are still in school and living with their parents, which would provide a social context that is supportive of their electoral participation. However, opponents argue that 16- and 17-year-olds are not mature enough to take part in elections. Using data from a 2018 Quebec election survey that included a subsample of individuals aged 16 and 17, this study provides mixed evidence for both arguments.
Article
Full-text available
Analyzing the British Election Study from 1964 to 2010, we examine the influence of electoral context on turnout, focusing on the closeness of elections in terms of lagged seat and constituency-level winning margins. Using cross-classified multilevel models to account for individual and contextual factors and disentangle life cycle, cohort- and election-specific effects, we find that closeness strongly affects voting behavior, particularly among new electors. Widening seat margins in British elections over the last decades have had a persistent impact on turnout. Respondents who faced less competitive environments when young are more likely to abstain in subsequent elections than those reaching voting age after close-fought races. We conclude that variations in competitiveness have had both short- and long-term effects on turnout.
Article
Full-text available
The average voter falls far short of the prescriptions of classic democratic theory in terms of interest, knowledge, and participation in politics. We suggest a more realistic standard: Citizens fulfill their democratic duties if, most of the time, they vote ''correctly.'' Relying on an operationalization of correct voting based on fully informed interests, we present experimental data showing that, most of the time, people do indeed manage to vote correctly. We also show that voters' determinations of their correct vote choices can be predicted reasonably well with widely available survey data. We illustrate how this measure can be used to determine the proportion of the electorate voting correctly, which we calculate at about 75% for the five American presidential elections between 1972 and 1988. With a standard for correct vote decisions, political science can turn to exploring the factors that make it more likely that people will vote correctly.
Article
Full-text available
Critics of giving citizens under 18 the right to vote argue that such teenagers lack the ability and motivation to participate effectively in elections. If this argument is true, lowering the voting age would have negative consequences for the quality of democracy. We test the argument using survey data from Austria, the only European country with a voting age of 16 in nation-wide elections. While the turnout levels of young people under 18 are relatively low, their failure to vote cannot be explained by a lower ability or motivation to participate. In addition, the quality of these citizens' choices is similar to that of older voters, so they do cast votes in ways that enable their interests to be represented equally well. These results are encouraging for supporters of a lower voting age.
Article
Full-text available
Past behavior guides future responses through 2 processes. Well-practiced behaviors in constant contexts recur because the processing that initiates and controls their performance becomes automatic. Frequency of past behavior then reflects habit strength and has a direct effect on future performance. Alternately, when behaviors are not well learned or when they are performed in unstable or difficult contexts, conscious decision making is likely to be necessary to initiate and carry out the behavior. Under these conditions, past behavior (along with attitudes and subjective norms) may contribute to intentions, and behavior is guided by intentions. These relations between past behavior and future behavior are substantiated in a meta-analytic synthesis of prior research on behavior prediction and in a primary research investigation.
Article
Full-text available
We examine some issues in the estimation of time-series cross-section models, calling into question the conclusions of many published studies, particularly in the field of comparative political economy. We show that the generalized least squares approach of Parks produces standard errors that lead to extreme overconfidence, often underestimating variability by 50% or more. We also provide an alternative estimator of the standard errors that is correct when the error structures show complications found in this type of model. Monte Carlo analysis shows that these “panel-corrected standard errors” perform well. The utility of our approach is demonstrated via a reanalysis of one “social democratic corporatist” model.
Article
Full-text available
Why has turnout in European Parliament (EP) elections remained so low, despite attempts to expand the Parliament’s powers? One possible answer is that because little is at stake in these second-order elections only those with an established habit of voting, acquired in previous national elections, can be counted on to vote. Others argue that low turnout is an indication of apathy or even scepticism towards Europe. This article conducts a critical test of the “little at stake” hypothesis by focusing on a testable implication: that turnout at these elections will be particularly low on the part of voters not yet socialized into habitual voting. This proposition is examined using both time-series cross-section analyses and a regression discontinuity design. Our findings show that EP elections depress turnout as they inculcate habits of non-voting, with long-term implications for political participation in EU member states.
Article
Surveys are a key tool for understanding political behavior, but they are subject to biases that render their estimates about the frequency of socially desirable behaviors inaccurate. For decades the American National Election Study (ANES) has overestimated voter turnout, though the causes of this persistent bias are poorly understood. The face-to-face component of the 2012 ANES produced a turnout estimate at least 13 points higher than the benchmark voting-eligible population turnout rate. We consider three explanations for this overestimate in the survey: nonresponse bias, over-reporting and the possibility that the ANES constitutes an inadvertent mobilization treatment. Analysis of turnout data supplied by voter file vendors allows the three phenomena to be measured for the first time in a single survey. We find that over-reporting is the largest contributor, responsible for six percentage points of the turnout overestimate, while nonresponse bias and mobilization account for an additional 4 and 3 percentage points, respectively.
Chapter
Since first cutting my research teeth as a doctoral student on the subject of the politics of public celebrations (Jennings, 2004), I have been interested in the nature of the relationship between public opinion and the behaviour of elected government (see also Jennings, 2012). This chapter looks at the problem of interpreting dynamic data: Do elected politicians listen to the demands of the public in making and implementing their decisions? I am interested in questions not because I think that responsiveness to public opinion is intrinsically a good thing but because it seems to me to be at the core of the functioning of democratic systems, as well as being central to the electoral survival of government: where non-responsive or underperforming political parties and candidates tend to be punished at the ballot box by the public. In fact, the case that first stimulated my interest in such a question — the Millennium Dome — involved quite the reverse. In that instance I was struck by the puzzle of why elected officials who were preoccupied with re-election (the poll-obsessed Blair government, no less), and who were likely knowledgeable of the economic determinants of vote choices of the public, would risk political capital on an unpopular white elephant such as the Millennium Dome? There would surely have been no electoral punishment for opting for a far more modest celebration of the new millennium.
Article
The mechanisms behind vote recall inaccuracy are not well understood. The literature has been unable to separate inaccuracy due to the nature of the voter (such as non-attitudes) from inaccuracy due to interfering events after casting the vote (such as a change in vote intention). This paper employs event history analysis to disentangle time-invariant and time-variant explanations of recall inaccuracy. Using Dutch panel data on 20,936 respondents in 42 waves between 2010 and 2012 (and additional data collected between 2006 and 2010), we explain the likelihood of misreporting the 2010 vote during the subsequent electoral cycle. The analyses show that although both explanations play a role, voters’ general level of volatility before casting the recalled vote matters less than changes in vote intention after the vote. We conclude that accurate recall is affected mainly by events rather than the nature of voters. Our findings imply that survey measures of voting behavior could be improved by offering cues on the elections of interest.
Article
A large literature has demonstrated that such economic factors as growth, inflation, and unemployment affect the popularity of incumbents within many democratic countries. However, cross-national aggregate analyses of ''economic voting'' show only weak and inconsistent economic effects. We argue for the systematic incorporation of political factors that shape the electoral consequences of economic performance. Multivariate analyses of 102 elections in 19 industrialized democracies are used to estimate the cross-national impact of economic and political factors. The analyses show that considerations of the ideological image of the government, its electoral base, and the clarity of its political responsibility are essential to understanding the effects of economic conditions on voting for or against incumbents.
Article
Green parties achieved a major breakthrough in the 1989 European elections. Who voted green in these elections? This first comprehensive comparative analysis of the green voter in Europe reveals, that, as expected, green voting is more common among the young, well‐educated, and middle class, and green voters also tend to be left‐wing, post‐materialist and concerned about the environment and arms limitation. But these stereotypical attributes of greenness closely apply to the German and Dutch Greens only: green voters in other countries comply far less, if at all, with this socio‐demographic profile. The one pervasive predictor is environmental concern, which is dominant in Britain, France, Belgium and Ireland. It is rather less important in Germany and the Netherlands where post‐materialism and a left‐wing orientation are more prevalent instead. The basis of green voting is thus rather less narrow than previously thought. The sharper delineation of support for the German Greens has contributed to a relatively stable green vote in the past, but the potential for attracting other sectors of the electorate are clearly very limited. Green parties in most other countries appear to be able to attract votes from a wider spectrum of the population but the commitment of these voters is likely to be far more volatile.
Article
This paper summarizes research on determinants of repeated behaviors, and the deci- sion processes underlying them. The present research focuses on travel mode choices as an example ofsuch behaviors. It is proposed that when behavior is performed repeatedly and becomes habitual, it is guided by automated cognitive processes, rather than being preceded by elaborate decision processes (i.e,, a decision based on attitudes and inten- tions). First, current attitude-behavior models are discussed, and the role of habit in these models is examined. Second, research is presented on the decision processes pre- ceding travel mode choices. Based on the present theoretical and empirical overview, it is concluded that frequently performed behavior is often a matter of habit, thereby es- tablishing a boundary condition for the applicability of attitude-behavior models. How- ever, more systematic research is required to disentangle the role of habit in attitude-behavior models and to learn more about the cognitive processes underlying habitual behavior.
Article
Turnout in Canadian national elections declined sharply in the 1990s, especially among young voters. We argue that a prime cause is the parallel decline in electoral competitiveness. We demonstrate this by estimating an encompassing model of turnout, including indicators of party spatial location and riding-level competitiveness embedded in a setup that is sensitive to entering cohorts and the passage of time, broadly in the spirit of Franklin (2004a). Data come from the Canadian Election Studies from 1988 to 2004. In addition to its main conclusions, the analysis generates new questions, especially about how voters derive information about competitiveness and about the relative importance of voters' own reckonings and the strategic allocation of resources and effort by parties.
Article
Political scientists who set out to test theories of coalition formation in parliamentary contexts (notably Browne, de Swaan, and Taylor and Laver) found only limited evidence to support the more classical game-theoretic propositions, which predict the formation of coalitions that command a majority of seats in a parliament but are otherwise as small as possible, in some sense of the word ‘small’. As a consequence, Browne later advocated the laying aside of these size theories in favour of theories that took account of the policy preferences of potential coalition partners, and in two separate studies theories were tested that focused upon the ideological component in coalition formation. Both these studies found theories based on presumed policy preferences to perform better than size theories. A more recent study has shown that the relative performance of theories based on size and ideological considerations depends on assumptions made in conducting the research. This study employed multiple regression analysis to establish that both kinds of theory had parts to play in an explanation of formation outcomes, which were dominated sometimes by size and sometimes by ideology, depending on country and time period. In the course of the analysis an additive combination of size and ideology was found to correlate to the extent of r ≃ 0·4 with formation outcomes, producing consistently better predictions than any existing theory.
Article
This paper reframes our inquiry into voter turnout by making aging the lens through which the traditional resource and cost measures of previous turnout research are viewed, thereby making three related contributions. (1) I offer a developmental theory of turnout. This framework follows from the observation that most citizens are habitual voters or habitual nonvoters (they display inertia). Most young citizens start their political lives as habitual nonvoters but they vary in how long it takes to develop into habitual voters. With this transition at the core of the framework, previous findings concerning costs and resources can easily be integrated into developmental theory. (2) I make a methodological contribution by applying latent growth curve models to panel data. (3) Finally, the empirical analyses provide the developmental theory with strong support and also provide a better understanding of the roles of aging, parenthood, partisanship, and geographic mobility.
Article
The magnitude of the interaction effect in nonlinear models does not equal the marginal effect of the interaction term, can be of opposite sign, and its statistical significance is not calculated by standard software. We present the correct way to estimate the magnitude and standard errors of the interaction effect in nonlinear models.
Article
Incluye bibliografía e índice
Youth participation in democratic life: Final report
  • M Bruter
  • W Harrison
Bruter, M., & Harrison, W. (2013). Youth participation in democratic life: Final report. London: EACEA 2010/03.
The dynamics of electoral competition since 1945
  • M Franklin
Franklin, M. (2004). The dynamics of electoral competition since 1945. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Why vote at an election with no apparent purpose? Voter turnout at elections to the European Parliament
  • M Franklin
Franklin, M. (2014). Why vote at an election with no apparent purpose? Voter turnout at elections to the European Parliament. Stockholm: Swedish Institute for European Policy Studies.
Turnout and the party system in Canada
  • R Johnson
  • S Matthews
  • A Bittner
Johnson, R., Matthews, S., & Bittner, A. (2007). Turnout and the party system in Canada, 1988-2004. Electoral Studies, 26(4), 735-745.
Youth Participation in Democratic Life: Final Report | EACEA
  • M Bruter
  • W Harrison
Bruter M and Harrison W (2013) Youth Participation in Democratic Life: Final Report | EACEA 2010/03.
The Dynamics of Electoral Competition since
  • M Franklin
Franklin M (2004) The Dynamics of Electoral Competition since 1945 (New York: Cambridge University Press).