Working Paper No. 596

Voter Turnout in Direct Democracy: Theory and Evidence

Published: June 18, 2003Pages: 23Keywords: Voting Behaviour; Referendum Types; Rational Choice JEL-codes: D72

Voter Turnout in Direct Democracy: Theory and Evidence Morten Søberg and Thomas P. Tangerås


We analyse voter turnout as a function of referendum types. An advisory referendum produces advice that a legislature may or may not take into account when choosing between two alternatives, whereas a binding referendum generates a decisive decision. In theory, voter turnout should be higher under binding than advisory referendums, higher in small than large electorates and higher in close than less close referendums. These predictions are corroborated by evidence from 230 local referendums in Norway. For example, a shift from an advisory to a semi-binding referendum leads to an average increase in voter turnout by 11.5 percentage points.

 

Interdisciplinary European Studies

The European Union in a Changing World Order

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This book explores how the European Union responds to the ongoing challenges to the liberal international order. These challenges arise both within the EU itself and beyond its borders, and put into question the values of free trade and liberal democracy. 

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