Force the Vote, Lift the Left? - Pacific Standard

Force the Vote, Lift the Left?

Leftist causes would benefit most from compulsory voting laws.
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(Photo: iStockPhoto)

(Photo: iStockPhoto)

Last year, President Obama mused that making voting mandatory could be "transformative." But which party would benefit if every citizen were legally compelled to fill out a ballot?

A study using historical data from Switzerland—where many policy decisions are made by popular vote—provides the purest indicator yet that such laws benefit leftist causes.

A research team led by political scientist Michael Bechtel looked at referendums conducted between 1908 and 1948, comparing otherwise similar regions with mandatory and optional voting. It found compulsory voting "increases relative support for leftist policy positions," such as a guaranteed minimum wage, by an average of 19 percentage points. The study suggests that, when everyone votes, and when they are asked to endorse policies as opposed to weighing the flaws of actual candidates, the left gets a lift.

"Does Compulsory Voting Increase Support for Leftist Policy?" Bechtel, M., Hangartner, D., and Schmid, L., American Journal of Political Science, 2015.

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