Mark Franklin et. al. The Dynamics of Voter Turnout in Established Democracies Since 1945 (2004). Selected chapters to be assigned.

Main Argument:_ The book is concerned to account for temporal and cross-national variation in aggregate electoral turnout. Although it starts of necessity with research on individual differences, it shows how those differences do not translate by themselves into propositions about aggregates.

 

_Method:_ A comparative study of turnout in more than 20 established democracies since World War II. He uses elections to the lower House of the national legislature in each country only. Two bodies of existing work are mobilized to mutually supportive effect. One set of propositions is social-psychological (survey-based electoral research), the other propositions originate in the rational-choice school.

 

 

 

== Notes ==

 

 

Franklin seeks to distinguish between short-term factors (variables that have their effects mainly on new cohorts) and cumulative factors (variables that are amplified by being repeated cohort after cohort, eventually affecting the entire electorate).

 

 

Three Factors Determining Voting Choice:

–  The social contexts of the individual voter

–  The socialization of voters

–  The political context of elections

 

Also, timing matters: what voters experience in their first elections may affect whether they become life-long voters or not

Traditionally, most citizens learn in early adulthood to become regular participants in the election process

Since the late 1960s, circumstances have taught increasing numbers of citizens to abstain from voting

 

Generally three schools of explanations for voter participation:

 

  1. Resources:
  2. SES
  3. Political interest
  4. SES*political interest
  5. Mobilisation: Get out the vote efforts

 

  1. Instrumental
  2. Costs and benefits of voting

–  Compulsory voting

–  Mail and Sunday voting

  1. Strategic considerations

–  Disproportionality

–  Likelihood of majority

–  Closeness

–  Effect on outcome

 

  1. Other

–  Frequency of elections

 

Differences within countries explain much less difference than changes between countries, i.e., it is not the different levels of education in a country which explain the differences between country A and B, but the country level factors, such as institutions, closeness, etc.

 

Variance: occurs over three dimensions: time, country, individuals

 

–  It is (in my opinion) the variance over time which is of the most interest, and the most import for those who believe that turnout is a signal of the health of democracies

–  In the perspective advocated by Franklin, the focus is not so much on the characteristics of individual voters, as is often the case in the explanation of turnout, but primarily on the character of elections

–  “[O]ur model implies that turnout will be predictable, in the case of any specific election, on the basis of the character of that election, not the character of the individuals voting in that election” [58]

 

 

_Turnout:_

–  Turnout can best be understood when we know the character of elections and the influence this has on new cohorts of voter

–  There is nothing inevitable about declining voter turnout, as it has occurred partly as a reaction to political reasons

–  Turnout decline is “in no way due to any decline in civic virtue or increase in political disaffection” [215]

–  The young react to new conditions and the specific circumstances when they enter the electorate

–  In sum, Franklin comes down on the side of instrumental explanations of differences in voter turnout. That is, when elections are closer and more proportional, more people will vote, ceteris paribus.

 

 

_Hypotheses:_

H1: Electoral competitiveness. They expect significant effects from variables representing short-term factors such as:

–  Time since the previous election;

–  Weekend voting;

–  Majority status of the largest party;

–  Margin of victory of the largest party;

–  Mean margin of victory across the districts in majoritarian systems;

–  Polarization and cohesion of the party system;

–  Decisiveness of the election; and

–  Disproportionality of the electoral system.

 

H2: Generational replacement. They expect significant effects from variables representing cumulative factors such as:

–  Reduction of the voting age;

–  Removal of compulsory voting;

–  The introduction of absentee voting or its removal;

–  The loss of a cohesive party system;

–  Executive responsiveness;

–  Average district magnitude;

–  Sizes of electorates;

–  Introduction of female suffrage.

 

H3: They expect a significant effect of past turnout.

 

H4: They do not expect any features of the character of elections that can vary over time (other than past turnout) to prove significant except when operationalized as a short-term or cumulative factor.

 

 

_Findings:_

–  The time since the previous election acted equally on all citizens regardless of whether they were members of established cohorts or new cohorts. This is evidence against H4

–  More frequent elections result in slightly lower turnout. [Short-term factor]

–  In plurality elections, if the average margin of victory increases by 10 percent, turnout will drop by 5.7 percent. [Short-term factor]

–  A country with compulsory voting will see turnout more than 11 percent higher than a country without compulsory voting. [Cumulative factor]. (This is consistent with Blais’s findings)

–  A country with a cohesive party system will see turnout 7 percent higher than a country with a party system in which party discipline is poor. [They say that this is a short-term and a cumulative factor]

–  A country with an executive that is fully responsive to shifting majorities in the legislature will see turnout that is 16 percent higher than one in which the executive is totally unresponsive [Cumulative factor]

–  Young initiation (mean voting age of 18) has an effect of depressing turnout by 3.8 percent [Cumulative]. (This is generally consistent with Blais’s findings)

–  They found an effect of 5 percent for female empowerment, which they say suggests that female turnout had risen this much on average by the time all women had enjoyed the opportunity to vote during their first three elections. [Cumulative]

 

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