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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/7762

Title: Actual and Potential Electoral Absenteeism in Belgium
Authors: ACKAERT, Johan
DUMONT, P.
DE WINTER, L.
Issue Date: 2007
Citation: ECPR Joint Sessions of workshops, Helsinki.
Abstract: During the eighties and nineties of the 20th century, absenteeism increased in Belgium. This evolution ended for all types of elections at the beginning of the current century. This paper offered a number of potential explanations for this puzzle, but we acknowledge that further examination is necessary to provide a clear answer for this change. We showed that potential absenteeists share specific characteristics. Potential turnout (in case of abolishment of compulsory voting) is linked with socio-demographic variables, with sociopsychological dispositions and with political attitudinal variables. Further investigation and comparisons between results of our contextual (aggregate) and survey (individual-level) analysis are in order. For instance, we noticed that a higher number of lists in a commune is linked to more absenteeism, whereas survey data allowed us to show that the higher educated were less likely to abstain if voting was made non compulsory. It is therefore likely that through education, interest in politics is raised to such an extent that a longer and therefore more complex menu of parties to vote for is not an obstacle for some parts of the population whilst it is very much likely to be one for the less privileged groups. The evolution of the possible effects of abolishing compulsory voting on the power distribution of different parties is not stable. By consequence, modulating this electoral rule in order to reshuffle political cards (such as reducing the electoral results of anti-systems parties) is a high risk operation. The politically most relevant conclusion of our research is that the level of education and socio-economic status are still strong determinants of potential absenteeism in Belgium. This is a stable finding, as we could show that it did not change since our first research project on the 1991 elections. Lower educated citizens and lower socio-economic status groups are more likely to ‘exit’ the electoral system in case of abolishment. Abolishing compulsory voting is, from the point of view of social (in)equality, not a neutral operation.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1942/7762
Category: C2
Type: Conference Material
Appears in Collections: Research publications

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