Is there an Intrinsic Duty to Vote? Comparative Evidence from East and West Germans

Aram Hur
Electoral Studies 45: 55-62.

The duty to vote is a strong predictor of turnout, but little is known of its source, leaving much ambiguity around the nature of the motivation. This article shows that a powerful pathway lies in the ethical commitment many individuals feel to their nations. When the state is seen as an extension of one's national community, this national obligation is politicized toward state affairs, including the duty to vote. Conversely, when this linkage is weak or absent, an intrinsic duty to vote is weakened. By revising a key assumption in the traditional calculus of voting, I derive a statistical model to identify a nation-based, intrinsic duty to vote. The model is tested in Germany, where different experiences with unification in the East versus West yield contrasting predictions on an intrinsic duty to vote. The findings suggest new strategies for get-out-the-vote efforts to target the nationalistic source of the duty to vote.

Wagner Faculty