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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

Do Voters Get Tired of Elections? Evidence from Japanese Unified Local Elections

Political Participation
Yosuke Sunahara
Kobe University
Yosuke Sunahara
Kobe University

In Japanese unified local elections held once every four years, prefectural assembly elections and designated city elections are held early in April followed two weeks later by municipal-level elections . Many voters therefore have to participate in two consecutive elections with a short interval. Previous studies have pointed out that voters may abstain from subsequent elections, experiencing “voter fatigue” due to the participant cost of frequent elections. Other studies, however, have focused on the positive effects of frequent elections on voter mobilization.

This research investigates whether voters get tired of frequent elections by using the data of the 2015 unified local elections in Japan. In Japanese prefectural elections, there are some districts in which assembly members are selected without contesting elections because the number of candidates is not more than their district magnitude. Voters in such districts therefore do not vote in the prefectural-level elections and only participate in municipal-level elections, while voters in other districts face serial elections. By using this multi-level setting, we demonstrate that such “walkover” districts take place as-if random and verify the effect of the previous prefectural-level elections on the turnout rate of the subsequent municipal-level elections. A tentative analysis shows that frequent elections do not have any impact on the turnout rate in small municipalities. We explore the theoretical reasons for this result and implications for the municipal elections in Japan.
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