Making Unequal Democracy Work? The Effects of Income on Voter Turnout in Northern Italy

In many democracies, voter turnout is higher among the rich than the poor. But do changes in income lead to changes in electoral participation? We address this question with unique administrative data matching a decade of individual tax records with voter rolls in a large municipality in northern Italy. We document several important findings. First, levels of income and turnout both dropped disproportionately among relatively poor citizens following the Great Recession. Second, we show that within-individual changes in income have an effect on participation, which is modest on average due to diminishing returns, but can be consequential among the poor. Third, we find that declining turnout of voters facing economic insecurity has exacerbated the income skew in participation, suggesting that income inequality and turnout inequality may reinforce each other. We discuss the theoretical implications of these results, set in a context with strong civic traditions and low barriers to voting.

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License CC BY
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 130 - Comparative