Low turnout: Threat to democracy or blessing in disguise? Consequences of citizens' varying tendencies to vote

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This article contrasts the view on low turnout as a threat to democracy with the unfashionable argument that low turnout might be a blessing in disguise. The political sophistication of those who participate is then relatively high, and their choices presumably better. This is consistent with the key functions of elections: mandate and accountability. Analyses based on the European Election Study 1999 show that the level of turnout not only affects how well particular groups are represented at the polls (potential threat), but also show how well their voting links up with the mandate and accountability function of elections (potential blessing). The effects are of limited size and counterbalance each other, which means that from neither perspective does low turnout really matter.
Original languageUndefined
Pages (from-to)612-623
Number of pages13
JournalElectoral studies
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2007


  • METIS-239740
  • Voting
  • Representation
  • Abstention
  • Turnout
  • Accountability
  • IR-76865

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