The Link Between Voting and Life Satisfaction in Latin America



What is the relationship between voting and individual life satisfaction in Latin America? While studies of Western Europe suggest that voters are happier than nonvoters, this relationship has not been explored in the younger democracies of the developing world, including those of Latin America. Using multilevel regression models to examine individual-level survey data, this study shows a positive correlation between voting and happiness in the region, noting, however, that the relationship is attenuated in those countries that have enforced compulsory voting. We then explore the causal direction of this relationship: while the existing literature points to voting as a possible determinant of individual happiness, it is also possible that happier individuals are more likely to vote. Three different strategies are used to disentangle this relationship. On balance, the evidence suggests that individual happiness is more likely to be a cause rather than an effect of voting in Latin America.