Compulsory Voting Rules, Reluctant Voters and Ideological Proximity Voting


Political theorists have argued that democracies should strive for high turnout, leading to an argument for the introduction of compulsory voting, one of the surest ways to increase turnout. Others have warned that this obligation comes at a cost of lower quality votes. We investigate these claims by examining the impact of compulsory voting on proximity voting. First, we examine individuals’ voting behavior in three countries with strong compulsory voting laws: Australia, Belgium and Brazil. Election surveys in these countries include a hypothetical question about the likelihood of voting without legal obligation. We continue with an examination of the effects of compulsory voting in Switzerland, which varies across cantons. Our results support the ‘reluctant voter’ hypothesis: Compelling voters to vote tends to weaken the impact of proximity considerations on electoral behaviour, although this effect remains limited and is only significant in half of the elections that were investigated.



Compulsory voting; Correct voting; Left–right; Ideological proximity, Reluctant voter

This content has been updated on 21 April 2018 at 20 h 26 min.