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Engineering Democracy: Electoral Rules and Turnout Inequality

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Brian Boyle



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been accepted and is due to be published in its final definitive form by Sage Publications Ltd., 2022.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


The issue of unequal electoral turnout poses serious concerns for both the overall health of democratic politics, and the extent to which certain groups exert an unequal influence on the political process. This paper explores whether electoral rules such as: Compulsory voting, electoral system proportionality, and voter registration have the potential to reduce voter inequality in terms of age, income, and education. This is tested using cross-national survey data and cross-level interactions between electoral institutions and socio-demographic variables. The final dataset is based on waves 2-4 of the Comparative Study of Electoral Systems (CSES), and contains information on 133,000 individuals, within 45 countries, between 2001-2016. The results indicate that compulsory voting is one of the most effective means of reducing the turnout gap, while the effects of proportionality and voter registration are somewhat more mixed.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Boyle B

Publication type: Article

Publication status: In Press

Journal: Political Studies

Year: 2022

Acceptance date: 05/04/2022

Date deposited: 11/04/2022

ISSN (print): 0032-3217

ISSN (electronic): 1467-9248

Publisher: Sage Publications Ltd.