The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment

Authors


  • I am indebted to Jim Alt for discussions and suggestions, and I am grateful to Martin Browning, Bruno Frey, Don Green, Dan Ho, Christian Schultz, four anonymous reviewers of this journal, and conference and seminar participants at EPCS (Aarhus), CAM, and EPRU (University of Copenhagen), APSA (Philadelphia), and Harvard for comments and suggestions, to Jan Erling Klausen for generous access to his data, and to Nicolaj Verdelin for able research assistance. The activities of EPRU are financed by a grant from the Danish National Research Foundation.

David Dreyer Lassen is Assistant Professor of Economics and Research Fellow of Economic Policy Research Unit, University of Copenhagen, Studiestræde 6, DK-1455 Copenhagen K, Denmark (David.Dreyer.Lassen@econ.ku.dk).

Abstract

Do better-informed people vote more? Recent formal theories of voter turnout emphasize a positive effect of being informed on the propensity to vote, but the possibility of endogenous information acquisition makes estimation of causal effects difficult. I estimate the causal effects of being informed on voter turnout using unique data from a natural experiment Copenhagen referendum on decentralization. Four of fifteen districts carried out a pilot project, exogenously making pilot city district voters more informed about the effects of decentralization. Empirical estimates based on survey data confirm a sizeable and statistically significant causal effect of being informed on the propensity to vote.

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