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Does Democratic Consolidation Lead to a Decline in Voter Turnout? Global Evidence Since 1939

Does Democratic Consolidation Lead to a Decline in Voter Turnout? Global Evidence Since 1939

By Filip Kostelka, University of Montreal 

This article challenges the conventional wisdom that democratic consolidation depresses voter turnout. Studying democratic legislative elections held worldwide between 1939 and 2015, it explains why voting rates in new democracies decrease when they do, how much they decrease, and how this phenomenon relates to the voter decline observed in established democracies. The article identifies three main sources of decline. The first and most important is the democratization context. When democratizations are opposition-driven or occur in electorally mobilized dictatorships, voter turnout is strongly boosted in the founding democratic election. As time passes and the mobilizing democratization context fades, voting rates return to normal, which translates into turnout declines. The second source, the democratic consolidation context, seems to depress voter turnout only in post-Communist democracies. Finally, new democracies mirror established democracies in that their voting rates have been declining since the 1970s, irrespective of the two previous mechanisms.

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American Political Science Review  /  First View