The Decision (Not) to Vote

Harold D. Clarke, David Sanders, Marianne C. Stewart and Paul Whiteley

in Political Choice in Britain

Published in print March 2004 | ISBN: 9780199244881
Published online November 2004 | e-ISBN: 9780191601521 | DOI:
 The Decision (Not) to Vote

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First tests rival models of voting turnout using data drawn from the 2001 BES pre- and post-election surveys. Analyses reveal that the general incentives model performs best. Crucial individual-level influences on electoral turnout are calculations of efficacy-discounted benefits and costs of participation, sense of civic duty, and age. A model of the aggregate-level dynamics of turnout between 1945 and 2001 indicate a substantial portion of the sharp decline in turnout that occurred in the 1997 and 2001 general elections was caused by the one-sided nature of the contests, coupled with the perception that the two major parties did not offer a distinctive menu of policy choices. Analyses suggest that the strong relationship between age and civic duty has a sizeable generational component.

Keywords: age cohorts; civic duty; efficacy; ideological proximity; party competition; turnout

Chapter.  16460 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: UK Politics

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