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Concept: Voter turnout


Internet search rankings have a significant impact on consumer choices, mainly because users trust and choose higher-ranked results more than lower-ranked results. Given the apparent power of search rankings, we asked whether they could be manipulated to alter the preferences of undecided voters in democratic elections. Here we report the results of five relevant double-blind, randomized controlled experiments, using a total of 4,556 undecided voters representing diverse demographic characteristics of the voting populations of the United States and India. The fifth experiment is especially notable in that it was conducted with eligible voters throughout India in the midst of India’s 2014 Lok Sabha elections just before the final votes were cast. The results of these experiments demonstrate that (i) biased search rankings can shift the voting preferences of undecided voters by 20% or more, (ii) the shift can be much higher in some demographic groups, and (iii) search ranking bias can be masked so that people show no awareness of the manipulation. We call this type of influence, which might be applicable to a variety of attitudes and beliefs, the search engine manipulation effect. Given that many elections are won by small margins, our results suggest that a search engine company has the power to influence the results of a substantial number of elections with impunity. The impact of such manipulations would be especially large in countries dominated by a single search engine company.

Concepts: Search engine optimization, Voting, Elections, Election, Democracy, Voting system, Lok Sabha, Voter turnout


Nowadays, a large number of countries combine formal democratic institutions with authoritarian practices. Although in these countries the ruling elites may receive considerable voter support, they often use several manipulation tools to control election outcomes. A common practice of these regimes is the coercion and mobilization of large numbers of voters. This electoral irregularity is known as voter rigging, distinguishing it from vote rigging, which involves ballot stuffing or stealing. We develop a statistical test to quantify the extent to which the results of a particular election display traces of voter rigging. Our key hypothesis is that small polling stations are more susceptible to voter rigging because it is easier to identify opposing individuals, there are fewer eyewitnesses, and interested parties might reasonably expect fewer visits from election observers. We devise a general statistical method for testing whether voting behavior in small polling stations is significantly different from the behavior in their neighbor stations in a way that is consistent with the widespread occurrence of voter rigging. On the basis of a comparative analysis, the method enables third parties to conclude that an explanation other than simple variability is needed to explain geographic heterogeneities in vote preferences. We analyze 21 elections in 10 countries and find significant statistical anomalies compatible with voter rigging in Russia from 2007 to 2011, in Venezuela from 2006 to 2013, and in Uganda in 2011. Particularly disturbing is the case of Venezuela, where the smallest polling stations were decisive to the outcome of the 2013 presidential elections.

Concepts: Voting, Elections, Poll, Election, Democracy, Voting system, Ballot stuffing, Voter turnout


As we approach the 2014 election, we are witnessing an unusual situation. Poll results suggest a low level of public interest and a low projected voter turnout in this election. Only about half (52%) of the public say they are currently paying attention to the election (CBS News-New York Times [CBS-NYT] poll, 2014). On the basis of past nonpresidential-year elections, less than half of U.S. adults are expected to vote.(1) At the same time, congressional candidates are raising a number of important national issues, including what should be the future of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the years ahead. . . .

Concepts: Time, Future, Voting, Elections, Poll, Election, Voting system, Voter turnout


One of the most important recent developments in social psychology is the discovery of minor interventions that have large and enduring effects on behavior. A leading example of this class of results is in the work by Bryan et al. [Bryan CJ, Walton GM, Rogers T, Dweck CS (2011) Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 108(31):12653-12656], which shows that administering a set of survey items worded so that subjects think of themselves as voters (noun treatment) rather than as voting (verb treatment) substantially increases political participation (voter turnout) among subjects. We revisit these experiments by replicating and extending their research design in a large-scale field experiment. In contrast to the 11 to 14% point greater turnout among those exposed to the noun rather than the verb treatment reported in the work by Bryan et al., we find no statistically significant difference in turnout between the noun and verb treatments (the point estimate of the difference is approximately zero). Furthermore, when we benchmark these treatments against a standard get out the vote message, we estimate that both are less effective at increasing turnout than a much shorter basic mobilization message. In our conclusion, we detail how our study differs from the work by Bryan et al. and discuss how our results might be interpreted.

Concepts: Psychology, Statistics, Statistical significance, Experiment, Voting, Election, Democracy, Voter turnout


Using a quasi-natural voting experiment encompassing a 160-year period (1848-2009) in Switzerland, we investigate whether a higher level of complexity leads to increased reliance on trusted parliamentary representatives. We find that when more referenda are held on the same day, constituents are more likely to refer to parliamentary recommendations when making their decisions. This finding holds true even when we narrow our focus to referenda with a relatively lower voter turnout on days on which more than one referendum is held. We also demonstrate that when constituents face a higher level of complexity, they follow the parliamentary recommendations rather than those of interest groups. “Viewed as a geometric figure, the ant’s path is irregular, complex, hard to describe. But its complexity is really a complexity in the surface of the beach, not a complexity in the ant.” ( [1] p. 51).

Concepts: United Kingdom, Switzerland, Voting, Elections, Election, Referendum, Parliamentary system, Voter turnout


The Affordable Care Act is a landmark piece of social legislation with the potential to reshape health care in the United States. Its potential to reshape politics is also considerable, but existing scholarship suggests conflicting expectations about the law’s policy feedbacks, especially given uneven state-level implementation. In this article I focus on the policy feedbacks of the law’s Medicaid expansion on political participation, using district-level elections data for 2012 and 2014 US House races and cross-sectional survey data from 2014. I find that the increases in Medicaid enrollment associated with the expansion are related to considerably higher voter turnout and that this effect was likely due to both an increase in turnout for new beneficiaries and a backlash effect among conservative voters opposed to the law and its implementation. These results have important implications for our understanding of the ACA and of the impact of welfare state expansions on political participation, particularly in federalized systems.

Concepts: United States, Law, Voting, Political philosophy, Political science, Election, Voter turnout, Voter registration


Election data represent a precious source of information to study human behavior at a large scale. In proportional elections with open lists, the number of votes received by a candidate, rescaled by the average performance of all competitors in the same party list, has the same distribution regardless of the country and the year of the election. Here we provide the first thorough assessment of this claim. We analyzed election datasets of 15 countries with proportional systems. We confirm that a class of nations with similar election rules fulfill the universality claim. Discrepancies from this trend in other countries with open-lists elections are always associated with peculiar differences in the election rules, which matter more than differences between countries and historical periods. Our analysis shows that the role of parties in the electoral performance of candidates is crucial: alternative scalings not taking into account party affiliations lead to poor results.

Concepts: Voting, Elections, Election, Voting system, Proportional representation, Voter turnout, Preselection, Party-list proportional representation


A new viewpoint on electoral involvement is proposed from the study of the statistics of the proportions of abstentionists, blank and null, and votes according to list of choices, in a large number of national elections in different countries. Considering 11 countries without compulsory voting (Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland), a stylized fact emerges for the most populated cities when one computes the entropy associated to the three ratios, which we call the entropy of civic involvement of the electorate. The distribution of this entropy (over all elections and countries) appears to be sharply peaked near a common value. This almost common value is typically shared since the 1970s by electorates of the most populated municipalities, and this despite the wide disparities between voting systems and types of elections. Performing different statistical analyses, we notably show that this stylized fact reveals particular correlations between the blank/null votes and abstentionists ratios. We suggest that the existence of this hidden regularity, which we propose to coin as a ‘weak law on recent electoral behavior among urban voters’, reveals an emerging collective behavioral norm characteristic of urban citizen voting behavior in modern democracies. Analyzing exceptions to the rule provides insights into the conditions under which this normative behavior can be expected to occur.

Concepts: European Union, Voting, Elections, Plurality voting system, Election, Democracy, Voting system, Voter turnout


The geographic concentration of disadvantage is a key mechanism of inequity. In the United States, the spatial patterning of disadvantage renders it more than the sum of its individual parts and disproportionately harms economically and racially marginalized Americans. This article focuses specifically on the political effects of Medicaid beneficiaries being concentrated in particular locales. After offering a framework for conceptualizing the community-wide consequences of such policy concentration, I analyze aggregate multiyear data to examine the effect of Medicaid density on county-level voter turnout and local organizational strength. I find that, as the proportion of county residents enrolled in Medicaid increases, the prevalence of civic and political membership associations declines and aggregate rates of voting decrease. These results suggest that, if grassroots political action is to be part of a strategy to achieve health equity, policy makers and local organizations must make efforts to counteract the sometimes demobilizing “place-based” political effects of “people-based” policies such as Medicaid.

Concepts: Game theory, United States, Policy, Metaphysics, Voting, Political science, Plurality voting system, Voter turnout


While poor self-rated health is known to decrease an individual’s propensity to vote, disaggregation of the components of health on turnout has thus far received only little attention. This study deepens on the understanding of such relationships by examining the association between chronic diseases and voting.

Concepts: Medicine, Voting, Election, Voter turnout