Demobilizing Voters: Election Turnout in the 2016 Russian Election

in Russian Politics
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Under communism, official election returns suggested that around 99 percent of the electorate voted. Since then, election turnout in Russia has declined dramatically, with the 2016 Duma election recording the lowest level of turnout since democratization. This paper uses national survey data collected just after the 2016 election to test four hypotheses to explain this low turnout, and to evaluate its consequences for party support. The results show that a voter’s resources, the degree of mobilization and his or her sense of efficacy all influence the probability of voting. A belief in electoral integrity also matters, but only insofar as it is related to support for the Putin regime. The level of differential turnout across the regions in the 2016 election was exceptional. Both aggregate and individual level analyses confirm that United Russia gained considerably from the higher turnout that occurred in the remoter regions, and from lower turnout in the urban regions. United Russia has pursued a strategy of voter demobilization in areas of low support, and this explains its continuing electoral success.




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