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Voter turnout and government's legitimate mandate

Alberto Grillo

European Journal of Political Economy, 2019, vol. 59, issue C, 252-265

Abstract: The paper studies a group-mobilization model of costly voting in which citizens care about the legitimate mandate of the government formed by the winning group. This, as a function of the electorate's voting behavior, depends on both the margin of victory and the total turnout rate. Citizens prefer a high mandate when their own group forms the government but a low one if the government is formed by an opposing group. As such, the eventual losing group faces a trade-off: a higher participation from its members decreases the margin of victory but increases the total turnout. In equilibrium, a second fundamental trade-off arises, which overturns the supposed positive relationship between turnout and mandate: as the total turnout becomes more important for the government's mandate, the first decreases but the second strengthens. The key mechanism at play is a shift in the relative participation of the two groups, which favors the majority and raises its margin of victory, thus yielding a bandwagon effect. The implications for the evolution of turnout and the occurrence of election boycotts are discussed.

Keywords: Voter turnout; Legitimacy; Mandate; Costly voting; Bandwagon (search for similar items in EconPapers)
JEL-codes: D72 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2019
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