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SPP 512

Author: Patrick Bernhagen and Richard Rose
Description: The political effects of low turnout at elections are a recurring theme in politics and political science. Particular interest concerns the possibility of some parties gaining and others losing votes from low turnout. Methods to estimate these effects differ. Some surveys ask self-reported non-voters how they would have voted had they done so. Others predict hypothetical vote choices statistically. We simulate the vote choices of abstainers with the help of multiple imputation, using data from the 2009 European Election Study. The simulations show that numerous parties would have incurred considerable gains and losses compared to the actual results if turnout at the 2009 EP election had reached the levels recorded at the preceding first-order election in each member state. We compare our counterfactual election results with findings based on the self-reported hypothetical vote choices of non-voters in the 2009 European Election Study. Estimates of turnout effects based on multiple imputation are on average larger than those based on non-voters' reported hypothetical vote choices. The differences depend neither on the size of the turnout effects nor on the number of parties.

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CSPP School of Government & Public Policy U. of Strathclyde Glasgow G1 1XQ Scotland