Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 December 2015
Analyzing the British Election Study from 1964 to 2010, we examine the influence of electoral context on turnout, focusing on the closeness of elections in terms of lagged seat and constituency-level winning margins. Using cross-classified multilevel models to account for individual and contextual factors and disentangle life cycle, cohort- and election-specific effects, we find that closeness strongly affects voting behavior, particularly among new electors. Widening seat margins in British elections over the last decades have had a persistent impact on turnout. Respondents who faced less competitive environments when young are more likely to abstain in subsequent elections than those reaching voting age after close-fought races. We conclude that variations in competitiveness have had both short- and long-term effects on turnout.
Jack Vowles is the Professor of Comparative Politics, School of History, Philosophy, Political Science, and International Relations, Victoria University of Wellington, PO Box 600, Wellington 6140 (Jack.Vowles@vuw.ac.nz). Gabriel Katz is Senior Lecturer in the Department of Politics, University of Exeter, Amory Building, Rennes Drive, Exeter EX4 4QJ (G.Katz@exeter.ac.uk). Daniel Stevens is the Professor in the Department of Politics, University of Exeter, Treliever Road, Penryn, Cornwall TR10 9FE (D.P.Stevens@exeter.ac.uk). The authors gratefully acknowledge the reviewers and editors’ helpful and constructive comments. Dan Stevens’ and Jack Vowles’ contributions were partly supported by an ESRC grant, Comparative Cross-National Electoral Research (ES/H030883/1). Further acknowledgments to those who provided, and/or assisted with, data collection can be found in the Online Appendix. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/psrm.2015.67