What do the academics say? How an intention to move effects turnout

Welcome to the latest in our occasional series highlighting interesting findings from academic research. Today – how intention to move home influences turnout in Britain.

The finding is from “Geographic Mobility, Social Connections and Voter Turnout” by Keith Dowding, Peter John and Daniel Rubenson (Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties, Vol. 22 No.2, May 2012):

We have shown that the intention to move [home] will reduce the probability that someone will vote, suggesting that people take into account the benefits consequent upon their vote when deciding whether to cast a ballot. Those intending to move are less likely to gain benefits from the representatives for whom they are voting if they think they will not be in the community in the near future … Our results indicate that the effect is stronger in the case of local elections.

The maximum effect they found was for someone in a local election who has not been involved in any local group, club or organisation in the last 12 months. For such people an intention to move reduces turnout by nearly 8 percentage points. The size of that effect drops as people have greater ties to local groups or if the election is a general election.

Although political campaigns rarely have information about whether someone is intending to move, this finding is a reminder of the value of targeting properties with a high turnover of population as they are likely to contain people who fall into this lower turnout pattern.

The likely lower turnout, or conversely the greater the benefit for a campaign of targeting ‘get out the vote’ efforts, is all the more the further away from a polling station the property is. As for what messages will motivate people to vote, remember the benefits of reminding people how many other people do vote.

You can read the other posts in our What do the academics say? series here.

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