Emilia Simeonova, Randall Akee, John Holbein, William E. Copeland, E. Jane Costello, 15 July 2018

Political scientists have shown conclusively, at least in the US, that richer people vote more, which has troubling implications. Using data from a government cash transfer programme, this column shows that children who grew up in households in the bottom half of the income distribution that received extra income were more likely to vote as adults compared to their counterparts who did not receive the transfers. The results suggest that efforts to reduce income inequality may have the unexpected side effect of reducing gaps in civic participation.

Marcel Fafchamps, Ana Vaz, Pedro Vicente, 03 March 2018

Voter turnout is crucial in electing a politically representative government, but turnout depends on many social norms as well as the likelihood of casting a pivotal vote. This column uses evidence from a campaign to increase turnout in the 2009 elections in Mozambique to examine how peer effects impact both these channels. The results reveal positive peer effects on information and interest in politics, but negative effects on voter participation, perhaps due to voters becoming aware that their vote is less likely to matter as overall turnout increases.

Julia Cagé, 23 December 2017

Conventional wisdom holds that more media competition makes citizens more informed, and that it improves the functioning of democracies. This column tests this claim using data on local newspaper circulation in France. It finds that increased media competition leads to business stealing and to a decrease in the coverage of public affairs news by local newspapers. It also has a negative impact on local election turnout. While competition is key to the quality of the media environment, the results highlight that more media competition is not necessarily socially efficient.

Alessandro Gavazza, Mattia Nardotto, Tommaso Valletti, 31 January 2016

The internet is lauded for increasing access to information, but it is unclear whether this translates into a better-informed and more engaged voting populace. This column uses UK data to determine how the internet has changed voting patterns and aggregate policy choices. Internet penetration is found to be associated with a decrease in voter turnout, mainly among the lower socioeconomic demographic. Internet diffusion is also found to reduce local government expenditure, in particular on policies targeting less-educated voters. These findings point to a trade-off between the ‘digital divide’ and the ‘political divide’.


CEPR Policy Research