European Parliament Elections: Estimating Adapted Turnout Rates

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UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies
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Has turnout in European Parliamentary elections decreased over time? While this certainly appears to be the case in absolute terms, a more nuanced analysis, replicating a study presented by Mark Franklin in 2001, reveals a more complex picture. When ‘structural factors’ such as compulsory voting, the effect of EP elections being held for the first time in an EU member state, ‘electoral salience’ (measured as the temporal distance to the next national parliamentary election) and the share of post-2004 countries in the total EU membership are accounted for, our analysis reveals that these can partially explain the observed lowering in real turnout rates. The explanatory power of the models capturing the situation in the aftermath of the 1999 EP elections are, however, lower than when they are applied to earlier EP elections. This leads to the additional observation that while structural factors offer a plausible explanation for the decline in EP turnout rates over time, their relative influence is gradually decreasing.