Political Behavior

, Volume 41, Issue 1, pp 209–230 | Cite as

Compulsory Voting Rules, Reluctant Voters and Ideological Proximity Voting

  • Ruth DassonnevilleEmail author
  • Fernando Feitosa
  • Marc Hooghe
  • Richard R. Lau
  • Dieter Stiers
Original Paper


Political theorists have argued that democracies should strive for high turnout, leading to an argument for the introduction of compulsory voting, one of the surest ways to increase turnout. Others have warned that this obligation comes at a cost of lower quality votes. We investigate these claims by examining the impact of compulsory voting on proximity voting. First, we examine individuals’ voting behavior in three countries with strong compulsory voting laws: Australia, Belgium and Brazil. Election surveys in these countries include a hypothetical question about the likelihood of voting without legal obligation. We continue with an examination of the effects of compulsory voting in Switzerland, which varies across cantons. Our results support the ‘reluctant voter’ hypothesis: Compelling voters to vote tends to weaken the impact of proximity considerations on electoral behaviour, although this effect remains limited and is only significant in half of the elections that were investigated.


Compulsory voting Correct voting Left–right Ideological proximity Reluctant voter 



Previous versions of this paper were presented at the 75th Annual Meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association (Chicago), at the School of Politics and International Relations at the Australian National University, and at a lunch seminar at Université de Montréal. We are particularly grateful to Johannes Bergh, Christopher Jensen, Ian McAllister and Shane Singh for comments and suggestions. Ruth Dassonneville acknowledges support of the Canada Research Chair Program (Canada Research Chair on Electoral Democracy/démocratie électorale), and Marc Hooghe acknowledges support from the European Research Council (ERC Advanced Grant 295920). Richard Lau received financial support from the School of Arts and Sciences at Rutgers University. Dieter Stiers acknowledges the Research Foundation Flanders (FWO) for financial support.

Supplementary material

11109_2018_9448_MOESM1_ESM.docx (469 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 469 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Dassonneville
    • 1
    Email author
  • Fernando Feitosa
    • 1
  • Marc Hooghe
    • 2
  • Richard R. Lau
    • 3
  • Dieter Stiers
    • 2
  1. 1.Département de science politiqueUniversité de MontréalMontréalCanada
  2. 2.Centre for Citizenship and DemocracyUniversity of LeuvenLeuvenBelgium
  3. 3.Department of Political ScienceRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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