ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

ECPR

Install the app

Install this application on your home screen for quick and easy access when you’re on the go.

Just tap Share then “Add to Home Screen”

Back to Paper Details

Downs in Spain? Revisiting the Paradox of Voting in 2008 General Elections

Pedro Riera
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Sebastián Lavezzolo
Pedro Riera
Universidad Carlos III de Madrid
Andrés Santana
Universidad Autònoma de Madrid – Instituto de Políticas y Bienes Públicos del CSIC
Open Panel

Abstract

The attempt to explain voter turnout within a rational choice framework entails an essential paradox: instrumental motivations of voters would lead to predict generalized abstention since the probability that one vote affects the outcome of the election is nil. Thus, if citizens run short of instrumental motivations to vote, why don’t they completely refuse to participate in elections? The aim of this paper is twofold. Firstly, we evaluate the validity of the instrumental voter model and compare its explanatory power of voter turnout with the theories that consider voting as a consumption act. Secondly, we hypothesize that the effect of the subjective probability of being decisive and the costs of voting are conditional on the political context. To be more specific, district magnitude and local electoral competitiveness modify the impact of these two independent variables on voter turnout. We also see how the effect of being identified with a minor party depends on district magnitude. We test all these propositions using both individual and aggregate data from the 2008 general elections in Spain, and specifying logistic regressions at one and two levels. Our findings show that instrumental and consumption motivations do have an effect on voter turnout and that the role played by the subjective probability of being decisive, the costs of voting and the identification with minor parties depend on district magnitude and local electoral competitiveness.