Does voting have upstream and downstream consequences? Regression discontinuity tests of the transformative voting hypothesis
© 2020 by the Southern Political Science Association. All rights reserved. Voting is a central pillar of political science research; indeed, scholars have long addressed questions like, “Who votes?,” “Why do people vote?,” and “What interventions increase voting?” However, only a few have considered whether voting changes adjacent civic dispositions and behaviors. In this paper, we explore the effects of voting shocks on young citizens’ political interest, memberships, social awareness, and political knowledge in the lead up to the voting experience (“up-stream”) and in the months and years after (“downstream”). To do so, we use a unique combination of large survey data from two countries paired with an exact date-of-birth regression discontinuity design. We find that eligibility to vote voluntarily and exposure to compulsory voting—despite eliciting large turnout increases—have precisely estimated null effects on young people’s upstream or downstream civic engagement. While voting may be an important experience, it appears to have smaller transformative effects than previously thought.
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