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Voting blank in EP elections: I spoiled my ballot and I liked it

Mihkel Solvak
University of Tartu
Mihkel Solvak
University of Tartu
Open Panel

Abstract

Invalid voting has been referred to as the “a gaping lacuna in the literature on comparative political behaviour” (Power & Garand 2007, 432). A handful of studies on this matter have been on the aggregate level only. Staying on this level allows testing system level effects, but cannot distinguish between purposeful and accidental invalid voting. This paper investigates purposeful invalid voting by pooling individual level survey data from five European Election Studies (1989-2009). European elections have been labelled “second order national elections” which makes turning out in such elections, only to cast an invalid ballot especially puzzling. The possible motivations behind this behaviour should hence be more pronounced in the European election context. The paper tests if purposefully spoiling a ballot is anti-systemic protest voting or rather a mild form of anti-party protest voting, that does not dispute the electoral process as such. An alternative explanation focusing on lack of political sophistication and a subsequent inability to make a choice at the ballot box is also tested. The results suggest that purposeful vote spoilers do not differ from voters nor non-voters in their attitudes towards neither the system nor European unification nor an array of other dimension. Instead evidence points towards it being anti-party protest voting by individuals who are politically interested, value democracy and have a voting habit.