Is civic duty the solution to the paradox of voting?

Abstract

Although sense of civic duty is seen by many scholars as the most obvious solution to the paradox of voting, very few empirical studies provide clear evidence on that motive. We use blood donation to build proxies, focusing only on intrinsic motivations, and then introduce such measures into electoral turnout regressions. Our results show that civic duty has a strong influence on voter turnout rates, confirming that the satisfaction voters receive from voting matters regardless of election outcomes. The results are even stronger when we incorporate the number of plasma and platelet donations, which take more time and require stronger commitments from donors.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    At the exception of the United States where donations at private blood banks often are paid (Kessel 1974).

  2. 2.

    For a fuller discussion of civic duty, see Galais and Blais (2016a).

  3. 3.

    The two others are the first statement of the previous studies and opinions about the relation between the vote and the preservation of democracy (the Downsian hypothesis about the satisfaction of voting).

  4. 4.

    Political elections always take place on Sundays in France, which lowers the opportunity costs of voting.

  5. 5.

    Blood drives and blood centers are both managed by the FBS.

  6. 6.

    For each election, we match our voter turnout data with this available from the closest census. In particular, we used the 2006 census data for the 2007 and 2012 presidential elections; the previous census of 1999 was used for the 2002 ballot.

  7. 7.

    For a discussion of the relationships between different aggregate variables and the calculus of voting, see Blais (2000), Geys (2006) and Mueller (2003).

  8. 8.

    Indeed, the number of municipal polling stations depends on the number of local inhabitants. France provides one station for every 1000 eligible voters, on average. Electoral participation commonly is higher in small municipalities.

  9. 9.

    The general linear model is recommended for estimating proportions when the residuals are not distributed normally.

  10. 10.

    It is significant at the 5% level.

  11. 11.

    Cost is measured in terms of the values of opportunities foregone and travel distance to the nearest blood donation center.

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Correspondence to Abel François.

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The authors would like to thank David Le Bris, Oliver Hermann as well as seminar participants at University of Nancy 2 (BETA), University of Lille (LEM), as well as participants at the European Public Choice Society meeting 2018 in Rome, and at the Sciences Po Quanti Workshop in Paris, for helpful comments and suggestions. We also thank Eric Toulmonde and Jean-Jacques Lemoine, both from the Etablissement Français du sang, for granting us an access to this exceptional database. Last, we are particularly grateful to the editors for their precious help and support. All errors are ours.

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François, A., Gergaud, O. Is civic duty the solution to the paradox of voting?. Public Choice 180, 257–283 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11127-018-00635-7

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Keywords

  • Electoral turnout
  • Paradox of voting
  • Civic duty
  • Blood donations
  • Calculus of voting