Published online by Cambridge University Press: 27 January 2009
Political folk wisdom has long suggested that the electoral fortunes of left-of-centre political parties are affected by the rate of turnout. As is so often the case, the conventional wisdom has yet to be subjected to wide empirical scrutiny. In this Note, we attempt such an examination in the context of national elections in industrial democracies.
2 The countries considered (and the number of elections included) are Australia (16), Austria (11), Belgium (13), Canada (13), Denmark (17), Finland (11), France (11), Germany (10), Greece (3), Ireland (12), Italy (9), Japan (14), Netherlands (11), New Zealand (13), Norway (9), Switzerland (10), Sweden (13), the United States (10) and the United Kingdom (12).
3 See, for example, DeNardo, , ‘Turnout and the Vote’Google Scholar; Tucker, H. and Vedlitz, A., ‘Does Heavy Turnout Help Democrats in Presidential Elections?’ American Political Science Review, 80 (1986), 1291–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar; for a review, see Radcliff, B., ‘Turnout and the Democratic Vote’, American Politics Quarterly, 22 (1994), 259–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
4 Note that the general, long-term level of turnout may itself be one of the causes of long-term left-party support. By fitting independent intercepts for each country, the dummies account for this fact. Hence, the dummies control for the possibility that the apparent impact on the vote represents not variations in turnout within the general pattern of competition within countries, but level differences in left-party support (and turnout) between them. The latter are the so-called ‘unit effects’ that the dummies are designed to capture.
5 We performed this same analysis including dummies for mandatory voting and for year, the latter so as to control for a possible secular trend in left-party support over time; the estimated coefficients were completely insignificant and their inclusion in no way materially affected the reported results. We also experimented with a dummy variable representing changes in electoral institutions, such as the elimination of mandatory voting in the Netherlands in 1971; again, there were no significant differences.
6 Powell, G. B., ‘Voting Turnout in Thirty Democracies’, in Rose, R., ed., Electoral Participation: A Comparative Handbook (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage Publications, 1980), pp. 5–30.Google Scholar
7 The class voting index is not available for Denmark, Greece and Switzerland. As a consequence, the number of cases in column (b) is lower than in column (a).
8 We here report the results when including the year variable, in that these terms reached statistical significance (as compared with the comparative models, as discussed in fn. 5). Note that the coefficients are negative in both cases, implying a modest downward trend in left-party voting over time.
12 Inglehart, R., Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Society (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1990).Google Scholar
13 For a discussion, see, for example, Merkel, W., ‘After the Golden Age: Is Social Democracy Doomed to Decline?’ in Lemke, C. and Marks, G., eds, The Crisis of Socialism in Europe (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1992), pp. 136–70.Google Scholar
14 Hibbs, D., ‘Political Parties and Macroeconomic Policies’, American Political Science Review, 71 (1977), 1467–87CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Corina, J., van Arnhem, M., and Schotsman, Geurt J., ‘Do Parties Affect the Distribution of Income?’ in Castles, F., ed., The Impact of Porties: Politics and Policies in Capitalist States (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1982), pp. 283–64Google Scholar; Hicks, A. and Swank, D., ‘On the Political Economy of Welfare Expansion’, Comparative Political Studies, 18 (1984), 81–119CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Castles, F., ‘Politics and Public Policy’Google Scholar, in Castles, , ed., The Impact of Parties, pp. 1–18.Google Scholar