Compulsory voting, turnout, and government spending: Evidence from Austria

Recognition Program

Authors: Mitchell Hoffman, Gianmarco León-Ciliotta and Maria Lombardi

Journal of Public Economics, Vol. 145, 103-115, January, 2017

We study a unique quasi-experiment in Austria, where compulsory voting laws are changed across Austria's nine states at different times. Analyzing state and national elections from 1949 to 2010, we show that compulsory voting laws with weakly enforced fines increase turnout by roughly 10 percentage points. However, we find no evidence that this change in turnout affected government spending patterns (in levels or composition) or electoral outcomes. Individual-level data on turnout and political preferences suggest that these results occur because the impacts of compulsory voting on turnout are larger among those who are non-partisan, who have low interest in politics, and who are uninformed.

This paper originally appeared as Barcelona GSE Working Paper 856
This paper is acknowledged by the Barcelona GSE Research Recognition Program