Experimental Economics

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 886–909

Experimental evidence that quorum rules discourage turnout and promote election boycotts

  • Luís Aguiar-Conraria
  • Pedro C. Magalhães
  • Christoph A. Vanberg
Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s10683-015-9473-9

Cite this article as:
Aguiar-Conraria, L., Magalhães, P.C. & Vanberg, C.A. Exp Econ (2016) 19: 886. doi:10.1007/s10683-015-9473-9


Many democratic decision making institutions involve quorum rules. Such rules are commonly motivated by concerns about the “legitimacy” or “representativeness” of decisions reached when only a subset of eligible voters participates. A prominent example of this can be found in the context of direct democracy mechanisms, such as referenda and initiatives. We conduct a laboratory experiment to investigate the consequences of the two most common types of quorum rules: a participation quorum and an approval quorum. We find that both types of quora lead to lower participation rates, dramatically increasing the likelihood of full-fledged electoral boycotts on the part of those who endorse the Status Quo. This discouraging effect is significantly larger under a participation quorum than under an approval quorum.


Election design Participation quorum Approval quorum Laboratory experiment 

JEL Classification

C91 D72 D02 

Supplementary material

10683_2015_9473_MOESM1_ESM.docx (258 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 258 kb)

Copyright information

© Economic Science Association 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luís Aguiar-Conraria
    • 1
  • Pedro C. Magalhães
    • 2
  • Christoph A. Vanberg
    • 3
  1. 1.NIPE and Economics DepartmentUniversity of MinhoBragaPortugal
  2. 2.Institute of Social SciencesUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  3. 3.Alfred-Weber-InstitutUniversity of HeidelbergHeidelbergGermany

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