Public Choice

, Volume 131, Issue 3–4, pp 333–344 | Cite as

The turnout ‘gap’ and the costs of voting – a comparison of participation at the 2001 general and 2002 local elections in England

  • Colin RallingsEmail author
  • Michael Thrasher
Original Article


Evidence from both sample surveys and the marked electoral registers is used to compare the participation of individual electors at the 2001 general election and the 2002 local elections in England. In those cases where conventional electoral procedures have been retained, there is a continuing gap between local and general election turnout. Those who vote at both types of election tend to have a sharper sense of civic duty and/or an incentive to vote based on the benefits perceived to be likely to accrue from the outcome of the local contest. However, in those places where the costs of participation are reduced through the introduction of all-postal voting, the turnout gap disappears as does the distinctive character of those who vote in local elections. In each case the findings support a rational choice model of participation with respondents weighing the benefits and costs of voting in the context of their own sense of duty.


Local and general elections Turnout Costs and benefits of voting 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Local Government Chronicle Elections CentreUniversity of PlymouthPlymouthUK

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