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How to Increase Turnout in Low-Salience Elections: Quasi-Experimental Evidence on the Effect of Concurrent Second-Order Elections on Political Participation*


Voter turnout in second-order elections is on a dramatic decline in many modern democracies. This article investigates how electoral participation can be substantially increased by holding multiple of these less important elections simultaneously. Leading to a relative decrease in voting costs, concurrent elections theoretically have economies of scale to the individual voter and thus should see turnout levels larger than those obtained in any stand-alone election. Leveraging as-if-random variation of local election timing in Germany, we estimate the causal effect of concurrent mayoral elections on European election turnout at around 10 percentage points. Exploiting variation in treatment intensity, we show that the magnitude of the concurrency effect is contingent upon district size and the competitiveness of the local race.

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Arndt Leininger, Research Fellow, University of Mainz ( Lukas Rudolph, Research Fellow, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München (LMU Munich) ( Steffen Zittlau, Research Fellow, University of Mannheim ( Tarik Abou-Chadi, Felix Arnold, Christopher Gandrud, Thomas Gschwend, Daniel Stegmüller, Markus Tepe, Natascha Neudorfer, Paul W. Thurner, Robert Schmidt, Christian Traxler, panel participants at the 2015 Annual Meeting of the Electoral Studies Working Group of the German Political Science Association, as well as colloquium participants at the Geschwister Scholl Institute of Political Science, LMU Munich, the University of Mannheim, the Hertie School of Governance, Berlin and the Berlin Graduate School of Social Sciences provided very helpful comments and suggestions. The authors thank the Office of the Elections Administrator in Lower Saxony, the Ministry of the Interior, Lower Saxony (especially Gerhard Fischer and Hiltrud Scheferling) as well as the Statistical Office of Lower Saxony (especially Michael Kölbl and Ralf Martins) for providing data and background on election timing in Lower Saxony. Lukas Rudolph acknowledges a research scholarship from the German Academic Scholarship Foundation. All remaining errors are the authors’ own. To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
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