Civic Duty and Voting under Autocracy

63 Pages Posted: 2 Jan 2019 Last revised: 1 Jul 2020

See all articles by Ora John Reuter

Ora John Reuter

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee - Department of Political Science; National Research University Higher School of Economics

Date Written: July 10, 2019

Abstract

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

Suggested Citation

Reuter, Ora John, Civic Duty and Voting under Autocracy (July 10, 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3299583 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3299583

Ora John Reuter (Contact Author)

University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee - Department of Political Science ( email )

PO Box 413
Milwaukee, WI 53211
United States

National Research University Higher School of Economics ( email )

Myasnitskaya street, 20
Moscow, Moscow 119017
Russia

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