The Elasticity of Voter Turnout: Investing 85 Cents Per Voter to Increase Voter Turnout by 4 Percent

Mark Schelker (University of Fribourg)
Marco Schneiter (University of Fribourg)

Abstract : In the aftermath of elections or ballots, the legitimacy of the result is regularly debated if voter turnout was considered to be low. Hence, discussions about legal reforms to increase turnout are common in most democracies. We analyze the impact of a very small change in voting costs on voter turnout. Some municipalities in the Swiss Canton of Bern reduced voting costs by paying the postage of the return envelope (CHF 0.85). Paying the postage is associated with a statistically significant 1.8 percentage point increase in voter turnout. Overall, this amounts to 4 percent more voters participating in the ballots. Moreover, we estimate the influence of this increase in turnout on party support in popular ballots. We find that social democrats and environmentalists see their relative support decline.

Public Preferences for Redistribution and Policy Outcomes - Comparative Study

Chen Sharony (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Shlomo Mizrahi (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)
Miki malul (Ben-Gurion University of the Negev)

Abstract : What are the factors affecting the gap between preference for income redistribution and policy? There is a mismatch between public preferences and policy in this field in some countries. That is, in some countries the public shows high demand for redistribution, but the government's social spending is low or vice versa. This study is a comparative study which uses panel data from 24 OECD countries, from different years (1990-2012). Public preferences were measured by value surveys and policy was measured by social expenditure and GINI index. The study has 2 phases: 1. measuring the gap between public preference and actual policy. 2. Regressions assessing the factors affecting this gap. The proposed sources for the gap are: social capital, ethnic heterogeneity, low level of perceived government effectiveness and high level of corruption. We calculated 2 kinds of gaps: 1. between preference and policy intentions (measured by social spending). 2. between preference and policy outcomes (measured by the level of income inequality). Results showed that most countries have small gap between public preferences and policy. A few countries (like Greece, Israel, Portugal and Spain) showed negative gap, where social spending is lower than the public preference. Other countries (like Sweden, Denmark and Luxemburg) showed positive gap, where public spending is higher than the public preference. Government effectiveness and corruption were found as the main factors affecting the gap, but in some regressions social capital also had an effect on the gap. The effect of government effectiveness on the gap may mean that the public does not demand redistribution, because they don't believe in the government's ability to perform. Another interesting finding is that a "positive gap" was found in countries considered to have high government effectiveness and low corruption. This could mean the people believe there is too much redistribution in the country.

Sovereign Default and Coalition Formation

Ricardo Vicente (Tallinn University of Technology)

Abstract : There is strong empirical evidence that the likelihood of sovereign debt default and rescheduling in democratic developing countries is reduced when the government is composed of more than one political party. A major tenet of coalition formation theory is the minimal-winning coalition; however, the relative frequency of surplus coalitions in both developing and developed countries seems to run counter to this theory. This paper links sovereign default empirical evidence with coalition formation theory. It provides a formal theoretical explanation for the coalition effect in the probability of default, and for the formation of surplus coalitions. In a stochastic endowment economy, two parties rotate in power. They have the option to invite a third party, which represents that part of society which is more directly interested in retaining access to international borrowing markets, to form a coalition government. The presence of the smaller party in the coalition decreases the likelihood of default (coalition buys commitment), and hence, bond prices are higher. When the effect of higher bond prices dominates the redistributive effect of one more party in government, bigger political parties have an incentive to form a coalition, even when this is not necessary to guarantee majority support in the legislative body. The positive effect of coalitions on bond prices is strongest for a combination of GDP much below potential with a low level of borrowing.

Divide to Rule: Deconcentration As Coalition Manipulation

Zach Warner (University of Wisconsin-Madison)

Abstract : Why do countries create new sub-national units of government? Recent studies have argued that deconcentration is the product of local and national elites jointly pursuing new districts for patronage and electoral gain. Yet this perspective leaves unresolved why patterns of contestation over deconcentration fail to map onto dominant cleavages such as partisanship or ethnicity, and how such conflicts get resolved. I argue that rulers instead pursue deconcentration to manipulate political coalitions such as factions or parties. I study a model of non-cooperative coalition formation, finding that elite preferences over deconcentration can be induced by expectations about coalitional alignments under alternative player sets. A central implication of the theory is that changes to existing sets of elites can precipitate deconcentration by making alternative coalition structures more attractive. I test this prediction using new data on deconcentration worldwide from 1960 through 2010. I find that exogenous variation in player sets --- sudden leadership deaths --- leads to a significant increase in the probability of deconcentration.