Residential Mobility and Turnout: The Relevance of Social Costs, Timing and Education
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Residential mobility has substantial negative effects on voter turnout. However, existing studies have been unable to disentangle whether this is due to social costs, informational costs or convenience costs that are related to re-registration. This article analyzes the relevance of the different costs by studying the effect of moving and reassignment to a new polling station in an automatic registration context and using a register-based panel dataset with validated turnout for 2.1 million citizens. The negative effect of moving on turnout does not differ substantially depending on the distance moved from the old neighborhood and it does not matter if citizens change municipality. Thus, the disruption of social ties is the main explanation for the negative effect of moving on turnout. Furthermore, the timing of residential mobility is important as the effect on turnout declines quickly after settling down. This illustrates that large events in citizens’ everyday life close to Election Day can distract them from going to the polling station. Finally, residential mobility mostly affects the turnout of less educated citizens. Consequentially, residential mobility increases inequalities in voter participation, which can be viewed as a democratic problem.
KeywordsVoter turnout Costs of voting Participation Reassignment of polling stations Inequality
I thank the editor, the anonymous reviewers and workshop participants at the Centre for Voting and Parties at the University of Copenhagen in October 2014 and at the Midwest Political Science Association’s Annual Meeting 2015 for their useful comments. I have furthermore received valuable comments from Barry Burden, Benjamin Highton, Hanna Wass, Jørgen Elklit, Kasper Møller Hansen and Yosef Bhatti. The project has received funding from the Danish Council for Independent Research (Grant No. 12-124983).
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