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Election frequency, choice fatigue, and voter turnout

Sebastian Garmann ()

European Journal of Political Economy, 2017, vol. 47, issue C, 19-35

Abstract: Influential scholars have argued that frequent elections lead to voter fatigue and can therefore be directly responsible for low turnout in countries characterized by frequent contests. However, other theories predict that frequent elections can even increase turnout. The existing empirical evidence is problematic as it simply correlates election frequency with turnout. By contrast, I exploit a natural experiment in the German state of Hesse, where voters from different municipalities faced the same electoral contest but experienced different election frequency, due to the staggered timing of some local elections. I find that when two elections are scheduled within a relatively short period of time, voter turnout at the later election is significantly reduced. This effect is stronger when the election is deemed less important in the eyes of the voters. Election frequency thus might also partly explain the wide turnout gap between first- and second-order elections, as suggested by Lijphart (1997).

Keywords: Turnout; Election frequency; Voter motivation; Choice fatigue; Contextual inference (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D70 D72 C23 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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