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The Masks of the Political God by Luca Ozzano

Explaining Social Class Inequality in Turnout: The Contribution of Money and Health

Political Participation
Political Sociology
Hannu Lahtinen
University of Helsinki
Hannu Lahtinen
University of Helsinki
Mikko Mattila
University of Helsinki
Hanna Wass
University of Helsinki
Pekka Martikainen
University of Helsinki

Occupation-based social class is an important, yet underexplored, factor in electoral participation. We argue that it should be given more attention because: 1) there is a need for a more nuanced approach in measuring an individual’s socio-economic position in electoral studies; 2) it can be a useful tool in mapping intergenerational and life-course effects; 3) knowledge on class-turnout relationships is needed for a better understanding of the patterns of class voting; and, 4) as it has a close connection to individual resources, it may enhance our understanding of the underpinnings of the resource model of political participation. Empirically, we measure the social class gap in turnout over time and assess the contribution of two other resources, namely, money and health to this relationship. The analysis is based on an individual-level register-based 11 per cent sample of the entire electorate in the 1999 Finnish parliamentary elections and secondarily from smaller samples in 2012 presidential and municipal elections. Results show that income mediates part of the effects of social class on voting, while social class and days in hospital care exert mainly independent effects on turnout. Social class differences remain largely constant in all income and hospital care groups, except that low participation is observed among those most severely affected by health problems. Results are also mostly similar between those of working age and the elderly. Overall, the persistency of turnout differences between social classes over elections stresses the significance of social class in theoretical and empirical models, which aim to understand inequalities in turnout.
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