Explaining Cross-National Variation in Voter Turnout: Aggregate and Temporal Patterns
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Over the last 25 years, cross-national variation in voter turnout has received increased attention from social science researchers. The dominant view in the field is that existing research on voter turnout has established some robust patterns and we know relatively well why voter turnout is higher in some countries than in others. Key variables for explaining cross-national variation in voter turnout are compulsory voting, electoral system, level of economic development, unicameralism, size of country, and literacy rate. This thesis formulates hypotheses concerning the causal effects of these variables alongside additional theoretically important variables, estimates their causal significance and checks for the robustness of their effects. By conducting a comprehensive research strategy involving both general and time-specific cross-sectional analyses, this thesis tests a series of research hypotheses on a data set that spans 90 countries across a long time period (1950-2000). The results indicate that the majority of the determinants behind cross-national variation in voter turnout are time-specific. This means that we cannot (as previous research has done) discuss the determinants behind cross-national variation in voter turnout without taking the time dimension into account. Only very few determinants, like compulsory voting, economic development, flow of information and equality in the distribution of income can be said cause variation in turnout across countries irrespective of time.