Civic Duty and Voting under Autocracy
63 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019 Last revised: 1 Jul 2020
Date Written: July 10, 2019
This paper explores the duty to vote under electoral autocracy. Using original survey data from Russia, I present evidence that most voters feel an ethical obligation---a civic duty---to vote. I suggest that the duty to vote under autocracy is rooted not in norms of democratic participation, but rather in reverence for the state. Because autocratic regimes often penetrate and politicize the state, I argue that opposition voters are less likely to revere the state and less likely than regime supporters believe that voting is a civic duty. Using a previously validated measure of the duty to vote, I find evidence in Russia consistent with these arguments. The theory and findings suggest that authoritarian incumbents have an inherent mobilizational advantage: their supporters feel a duty to vote, but regime opponents do not. This may help explain why opposition parties under autocracy find it hard to turn out their supporters.
Keywords: Authoritarianism, Voting, Russia, Turnout, Elections
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