Experimental Economics

, Volume 19, Issue 4, pp 886–909 | Cite as

Experimental evidence that quorum rules discourage turnout and promote election boycotts

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


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 



This work was carried out within the funding with the UID/ECO/03182/2013 reference with the FCT/MEC’s financial support through national funding and when applicable co-funded by the FEDER under the PT2020 Partnership Agreement.

Supplementary material

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


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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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