'Rational' theories of voter turnout: A review

  • Geys B
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The paradox between an individual's decisions to head to the polls and the absence of strictly rational arguments for this action has intrigued – and troubled – many scholars. The present article surveys various theoretical contributions to resolve this paradox of (not) voting. We assess these approaches based on their ability to explain a number of ‘stylised facts’ with respect to voter turnout. The main conclusion is that straying away from the behavioural assumptions of the Downsian model provides more realistic models and leads to promising predictions as to the individual's decision to head to the polls. Incorporating the role of (social) groups and learning in particular can be regarded as important strides towards understanding the individual's decision to cast a vote.

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