Referendum design, quorum rules and turnout
- 410 Downloads
In this article, we focus on the consequences of quorum requirements for turnout in referendums. We use a rational choice, decision theoretic voting model to demonstrate that participation quorums change the incentives some electors face, inducing those who oppose changes in the status quo and expect to be in the minority to abstain. As a result, paradoxically, participation quorums decrease electoral participation. We test our model’s predictions using data for all referendums held in current European Union countries from 1970 until 2007, and show that the existence of a participation quorums increases abstention by more than ten percentage points.
KeywordsReferendum design Voter turnout
JEL ClassificationD72 C25 C20
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.
- Angrist, J. D., & Pischke, J.-S. (2009). Mostly harmless econometrics: an empiricist’s companion. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press. Google Scholar
- Blais, A. (2000). To vote or not to vote: the merits and limits of rational choice theory. Pittsburgh: The University of Pittsburgh Press. Google Scholar
- Blais, A., & Dobrzynska, A. (1998). Turnout in electoral democracies. European Journal of Political Research, 33(2), 239–262. Google Scholar
- C2D: Research Centre on Direct Democracy. (2007). C2D Direct Democracy Database. Available at: http://www.c2d.ch.
- Feddersen, T. J., & Pesendorfer, W. (1996). The swing voter curse. American Economic Review, 86(3), 408–424. Google Scholar
- Franklin, M. N. (2002). The dynamics of electoral participation. In L. LeDuc et al. (Eds.), Comparing democracies 2: new challenges in the study of elections and voting. London: Sage. Google Scholar
- Freedom House (2007). Freedom in the world: comparative scores for all countries from 1973 to 2006. Available at http://www.freedomhouse.org/uploads/fiw/FIWAllScores.xls.
- Greene, W. (2008). Econometric analysis (6th Ed.) Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall. Google Scholar
- Herrera, H., & Mattozzi, A. (2009, forthcoming). Quorum and turnout in referenda. Journal of the European Economic Association. Google Scholar
- International IDEA: Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. (2007). Voter turnout website. Available at http://www.idea.int/vt/.
- Kaufmann, B., Büchi, R., & Braun, N. (2008). Guidebook to direct democracy in Switzerland and beyond. Marburg: Initiative & Referendum Institute Europe. Google Scholar
- LeDuc, L. (2003). The politics of direct democracy: referendums in global perspective. Toronto: Broadview Press. Google Scholar
- Marshall, M. G., Jaggers, K., & Gurr, T. R. (2006). Polity IV project: political regime characteristics and transitions, 1800–2004. Maryland: Center for International Development and Conflict Management, University of Maryland. Google Scholar
- Qvortrup, M. (2005). A comparative study of referendums. Manchester: Manchester University Press. Google Scholar
- Suksi, M. (1993). Bringing in the people: a comparison of the constitutional forms and practices of the referendum. Dordrecht: Martinus Nijhoff. Google Scholar
- Venice Commission (2005). Tables summarizing the replies to the questionnaire on referendums by the VC adopted by the Council for Democratic Election and the Venice Commission. Document CDL-AD(2005)034add. Available at http://www.venice.coe.int/docs/2005/CDL-AD(2005)034add-e.pdf.
- Venice Commission (2007). Code of good practice on referendums. Document CDL-AD(2007)008. Available at http://www.venice.coe.int/docs/2007/CDL-AD(2007)008-e.asp.
- Verba, S., Schlozman, K. L., & Brady, H. E. (1995). Voice and equality: civic voluntarism in American politics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Google Scholar
- Verhulst, J., & Nijeboer, A. (2008). Direct democracy: facts and arguments about the introduction of initiative and referendum. Brussels: Democracy International. Google Scholar