Fernando Feitosa is a FRQSC Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Political Science at McGill University. In his doctoral dissertation, Dr. Feitosa provides an answer to two important questions: do individuals rationalize their sense of civic duty to vote based on their prior voting behavior? And where does this political attitude come from? Relying on diverse estimation methods, Dr. Feitosa offers evidence that individuals are unlikely to change their sense of duty to match their prior voting behavior. Moreover, Dr. Feitosa shows that civic education and compulsory voting contribute to the development of civic duty, whereas corruption bears a marginal effect on how dutiful individuals feel. Besides civic duty, Dr. Feitosa’s interests include political polarization, democratic support, and political institutions. Dr. Feitosa is currently affiliated with the Center for the Study of Democratic Citizenship. He is a former research fellow at the Canada Research Chair in Electoral Democracy, and at the Center for Political Science Research.
This article investigates if civic education can spur a sense of duty to vote and, in this way, help to augment the number of voters and diminish inequality in participation. I perform a systematic cross-country analysis of the link between different forms of civic education and civic duty, using the data from the 2016 International Civic and Citizenship Education Study (ICCS) that include 23 countries. The results show that three key civic education mechanisms—civics courses, active learning strategies and open classroom environment—exert an influence on civic duty but that civics courses have the strongest effect. Country-level analyses confirm that civics courses are more influential on civic duty than the other types of civic education. This evidence elucidates which channels of school socialization may help to develop a sense of duty in adolescents, as well as the relative effect of each mechanism.
A close connection between public opinion and policy is considered a vital element of democracy. In representative systems, elections are assumed to play a role in realising such congruence. If those who participate in elections are not representative of the public at large, it follows that the reliance on elections as a mechanism of representation entails a risk of unequal representation. In this paper, we evaluate whether voters are better represented by means of an analysis of policy responsiveness to voters and citizens in democracies worldwide. We construct a uniquely comprehensive dataset that includes measures of citizens’ and voters’ ideological (left–right) positions, and data on welfare spending in Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development countries since 1980. We find evidence of policy responsiveness to voters, but not to the public at large. Since additional tests suggest that the mechanism of electoral turnout does not cause this voter‐policy responsiveness, we outline alternate mechanisms to test in future research.
Civic duty has been perceived as a key determinant of turnout. That is, while dutiful citizens turn out in large numbers, those who conceive of voting as a choice do less so. The strong correlation between civic duty and turnout might be due to reverse causation, however. Specifically, individuals might adapt their sense of duty according to previous voting behavior. In this article, we leverage Belgium’s compulsory voting system and the age-based discontinuity for the right to vote, and estimate the effects of being treated with participation on civic duty. We do not find “treated” citizens to be more likely to report civic duty than their “non-treated” counterparts. This finding holds across a series of robustness tests, and suggests that civic duty is exogenous to the vote.
Corruption is generally associated with low electoral participation. A recurrent explanation of the negative correlation between corruption and electoral turnout involves the rational calculus of the costs and benefits of voting. More specifically, in a context of high corruption, citizens do not vote because they think that doing so will hardly affect policy decisions. A number of influential studies has argued that corruption affects citizens' electoral engagement in a different and more fundamental way as well: It erodes their sense of civic duty to vote in elections. Yet, a relation between corruption and civic duty and a mediation effect of the attitude remains empirically untested. This article examines empirically whether perceived corruption and sense of civic duty are correlated, as well as whether civic duty mediates the relation between perceived corruption and turnout. It does so with the pooled Making Electoral Democracy Work data, as these data contain measures on individuals’ sense of civic duty to vote in four election levels, namely, national, regional, European, and municipal elections, as well as on their perception of corruption in each of these government levels, and on their participation in these four election levels as well. I find a weak relation between perceived corruption and civic duty, and a low mediation effect of the attitude (compared with rational factors), irrespective of the election level.
Research has established that compulsory voting rules have a strong effect on turnout. There are good reasons to think compulsory voting has such an effect because it leads citizens to feel a stronger sense of civic duty. In this study, we put the link between compulsory voting rules and civic duty to a test by examining whether Chile's abolition of compulsory voting rules, in 2012, affected citizens' belief in the duty to vote. Our results are consistent with the claim that compulsory voting rules strengthen citizens' sense of civic duty to vote, a finding that stands up to several robustness checks.
Work that includes civic duty among the predictors of electoral participation has generally assumed that civic duty is antecedent to turnout; as such, it affects voting behavior rather than being affected by it. Some studies challenge that view, arguing that, in fact, when asked in the context of a survey, individuals rationalize their perception of the duty to vote based on their previous participation, or not, in elections. In this study, we assess the temporal stability of the sense of civic duty and, by doing so, evaluate whether the public’s perception of civic duty does constitute a plausible antecedent to voting or not. Our results suggest that civic duty attitudes are very stable over time, a finding that stands up in the case of different survey samples, civic duty measures, elections, inconsistent voting behavior, model specifications, and between-wave intervals.
Political theorists have argued that democracies should strive for high turnout, leading to an argument for the introduction of compulsory voting, one of the surest ways to increase turnout. Others have warned that this obligation comes at a cost of lower quality votes. We investigate these claims by examining the impact of compulsory voting on proximity voting. First, we examine individuals’ voting behavior in three countries with strong compulsory voting laws: Australia, Belgium and Brazil. Election surveys in these countries include a hypothetical question about the likelihood of voting without legal obligation. We continue with an examination of the effects of compulsory voting in Switzerland, which varies across cantons. Our results support the ‘reluctant voter’ hypothesis: Compelling voters to vote tends to weaken the impact of proximity considerations on electoral behaviour, although this effect remains limited and is only significant in half of the elections that were investigated.
This article examines people’s assessments, ex post, of whether their decision to vote or to abstain in a given election was the right one. We use 22 surveys conducted in 5 different countries (Canada, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland) in national, supra-national and sub-national elections between 2011 and 2015. We find that the great majority of those who voted were satisfied with their decision to vote while non-voters were more doubtful about the wisdom of their decision to abstain. We also find that those who are interested in politics, who feel that they have a moral duty to vote in elections, and who feel close to a party are more prone to be satisfied with their decision to vote and to be dissatisfied if they chose to abstain.