Candidate-centred electoral systems and voter turnout

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This study evaluates contradictory theoretical predictions concerning the relationship between the candidate-centredness of electoral systems and voter turnout. Candidate-centredness has been proposed to both stimulate and depress turnout. Cross-sectional time-series data from 36 democracies between 1990 and 2014 are used to test the competing assumptions made about the impact of the personal vote on turnout. Three measures assessing the extent to which electoral systems create incentives to cultivate a personal vote are employed. The results show that turnout is the lowest in candidate-centred systems and the highest in party-centred systems with closed and ordered lists, while controlling for a host of contextual factors that have been linked to aggregate turnout. In addition, the finding that candidate-centredness is negatively related to turnout holds up even when taking into account district magnitude, electoral disproportionality and effective number of parties.
Original languageUndefined/Unknown
Pages (from-to)516–533
Number of pages18
JournalWest European Politics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2017
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Voter turnout
  • electoral systems
  • ballot structure
  • parliamentary elections
  • candidate-centredness

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