How important are social incentives for turnout?
Since the earliest election studies, we have assumed that social networks are important for turnout, and that voting more generally is a form of social behaviour (and also a habit). While there are heaps of data to support these ideas, this study from Denmark is quite something. Thanks to Scandinavia’s love for efficiency and science, as opposed to her glorious disregard for data protection and stuff, the authors are able to link panel data to fine-grained information on when people living in the same household entered their local polling station in various elections. Yes, that’s right.
Bhatti, Y., Fieldhouse, E., & Hansen, K. M. (2020). It’s a Group Thing: How Voters Go to the Polls Together. Political Behavior, 42(1), 1–34. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11109-018-9484-2
What we liked
The data: we observe actual behaviour, over years. We know where people live, and with whom. Plus, we also have socio-demographic information on them. And there are so many of them. Wow. Just wow.
What we did not like so much
Students did not at all worry about data protection. In this regard at least, my work on this plane is done. Otherwise, they were quite critical. They said that the paper was a bit short on theory (wow again), and that they wanted a better explanation for the “potential voting companion” effect. They also argued that local and EU elections were not necessarily comparable and worried about some other (rather specific) points. But in the end we agreed that this is seriously cool stuff.