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An Institutional Model of Turnout in Presidential Systems

Miguel Carreras
University of California, Riverside
Miguel Carreras
University of California, Riverside
Open Panel

Abstract

The existing institutional models of turnout provide adequate explanations of electoral participation in legislative elections. They focus on a series of factors (e.g. disproportionality in the translation of votes into legislative seats, number of parties in the legislature, district magnitude, and unicameralism) that have an impact on turnout in legislative elections. This model has been very useful to explain the cross-national variation in turnout in parliamentary systems. However, this model has provided mixed and inconsistent results when applied to presidential systems. I contend in this paper that a different institutional model of turnout is more appropriate to explain turnout in presidential elections. I argue that five factors (effective powers of the president, electoral cycle –concurrent versus non-concurrent elections–, electoral rules –runoff versus plurality–, the effective number of presidential candidates, and compulsory voting) have an impact on electoral turnout in presidential elections. I test this new model with data from all presidential systems in the period 1980-2010 and find strong support for my hypotheses.