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Compulsory Voting, Turnout, and Government Spending: Evidence from Austria

Mitchell Hoffman, Gianmarco León, María Lombardi

NBER Working Paper No. 22221
Issued in May 2016
NBER Program(s):Law and Economics, Labor Studies, Public Economics, Political Economy

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 1949-2010, 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 these results occur because individuals swayed to vote due to compulsory voting are more likely to be non-partisan, have low interest in politics, and be uninformed.

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Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w22221

Published: Hoffman, Mitchell & León, Gianmarco & Lombardi, María, 2017. "Compulsory voting, turnout, and government spending: Evidence from Austria," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 145(C), pages 103-115. citation courtesy of

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