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Satisfaction with democracy and voter turnout: A temporal perspective

Journal article
Authors L. Ezrow
Georgios Xezonakis
Published in Party Politics
Volume 22
Issue 1
Pages 3-14
ISSN 1354-0688
Publication year 2016
Published at Department of Political Science
Pages 3-14
Language en
Keywords Cross-national, longitudinal, satisfaction with democracy, voter turnout, party systems, participation, consequences, polarization, institutions, Government & Law
Subject categories Political Science


Numerous studies conclude that countries in which citizens express higher levels of satisfaction with democracy also tend to display higher levels of voter turnout in national elections. Yet it is difficult to draw causal inferences from this positive cross-sectional relationship, because democracies feature many historical, cultural, and institutional differences that are not easily controlled for in cross-sectional comparisons. We apply an alternative, temporal approach to this issue by asking the question: Are over-time declines (increases) in aggregate levels of satisfaction within democracies associated with increases (declines) in levels of voter turnout within these democracies? Our temporal analysis of this relationship in 12 democracies over the period 1976-2011 reveals a pattern that is the opposite of that suggested by previous cross-sectional studies: namely, we find that over-time increases in citizens' satisfaction with democracy are associated with significant decreases in voter turnout in national elections in these countries.

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