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How to Survey About Electoral Turnout? The Efficacy of the Face-Saving Response Items in 19 Different Contexts*


Researchers studying electoral participation often rely on post-election surveys. However, the reported turnout rate is usually much higher in survey samples than in reality. Survey methodology research has shown that offering abstainers the opportunity to use face-saving response options succeeds at reducing overreporting by a range of 4–8 percentage points. This finding rests on survey experiments conducted in the United States after national elections. We offer a test of the efficacy of the face-saving response items through a series of wording experiments embedded in 19 post-election surveys in Europe and Canada, at four different levels of government. With greater variation in contexts, our analyses reveal a distribution of effect sizes ranging from null to minus 18 percentage points.

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Alexandre Morin-Chassé, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Political Science, Université de Montréal, Pavillon Lionel-Groulx, 3150, rue Jean-Brillant, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3T 1N8 ( Damien Bol, Lecturer in Political Behavior, Department of Political Economy, King’s College London, Strand Building, London, United Kingdom, WC2R 2LS ( Laura B. Stephenson, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, The University of Western Ontario, Social Science Centre Rm 4154, London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 5C2 ( Simon Labbé St-Vincent, Research and Planning Analyst, Université de Montréal, 2900 Boulevard Edouard-Montpetit, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3T 1J4 ( To view supplementary material for this article, please visit

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Political Science Research and Methods
  • ISSN: 2049-8470
  • EISSN: 2049-8489
  • URL: /core/journals/political-science-research-and-methods
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