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On 15 April, over a few days, Danish schools partially reopened. Only children up until the 5th grade were allowed to return to school. We present results from a two-wave panel survey collected for parents with children in the 4th to the 7th grade in the week that schools partially reopened (Wave 1, initial N = 1,303) and again two weeks after (Wave 2, initial N = 1,000 reinterviewed). Using a difference-in-difference analysis, we compare parents with children below and above the cut-off. We do not find major differences in how our outcomes of interest develop. Government support decreased slightly more for parents whose children stayed at home, but child well-being, parental stress, economic situation mostly evolved in parallel for the two groups of families. In the context of a high compliance lockdown and in the short run, the gradual reopening did not lead to major differences in parental stress, child well-being, or economic situation, but resulted in some difference in government support. More research is warranted on the longer term effects of school lockdowns and reopenings under different social contexts.
Do personal background characteristics of a political candidate affect voter evaluations when voters also know the candidate’s policy position? Several studies have shown that voters infer personal traits and policy positions from candidate characteristics such as gender, family background and occupation. However, in most elections, voters do not evaluate candidates absent of any policy information. We investigate whether the influence of personal background characteristics vanishes when policy information regarding a candidate is available to the voters. Using a survey experiment, we confirm that voters infer both personal traits and policy positions from the background characteristics of a candidate, and we furthermore show that explicit information on policy positions moderates the relationship between background characteristics and candidate evaluations. However, policy information does not simply crowd out the effects of candidate background characteristics. Instead, policy information can change the valence of background characteristics, turning otherwise disadvantageous characteristics into an electoral advantage.
Women are less likely than men to run as candidates in political elections. One reason for this is gendered upbringing, which depresses political ambition among women and strengthens such ambition among men. Furthermore, gendered upbringing can be more pronounced when parents have children of both sexes, and political ambition is often associated with masculine traits. Based on these previous findings, we therefore test the theory that both women and men have a higher likelihood of becoming a political candidate if they have sisters rather than brothers. To establish whether the likelihood of running for office is affected by sibling sex composition, we utilize the fact that nature randomly assigns the sex of the younger sibling when parents decide to have a second child. Using data covering the entire adult Danish population and every candidate in national and local elections between 1990 and 2015, we find, however, no evidence that men and women with a younger sister are more likely to run for office. These findings run counter to previous findings on the effects of siblings and gendered upbringing.
The rewards of politicians are a key part of the implicit contract between politicians and citizens, and the effect of these rewards on democratic legitimacy and political recruitment is a central concern in public debate and democratic theory. Using a survey experiment, we show how citizens respond to hypothetical changes in politicians’ pay. The results indicate that citizens express lower levels of trust in the politicians when these politicians award themselves higher pecuniary rewards. However, our results also show that a devious strategy in which the rewards for politicians are less transparent ensures lower opposition from citizens than open and transparent strategies. Based on this, we outline a reinvigoration of the research agenda on “rewards at the top.”
Bias in self-reported voting and how it distorts turnout models: disentangling nonresponse bias and overreporting among Danish voters
Most nonexperimental studies of voter turnout rely on survey data. However, surveys overestimate turnout because of (1) nonresponse bias and (2) overreporting. We investigate this possibility using a rich dataset of Danish voters, which includes validated turnout indicators from administrative data for both respondents and non-respondents, as well as respondents’ self-reported voting from the Danish National Election Studies. We show that both nonresponse bias and overreporting contribute significantly to overestimations of turnout. Further, we use covariates from the administrative data available for both respondents and nonrespondents to demonstrate that both factors also significantly bias the predictors of turnout significantly. In our case, we find that nonresponse bias and overreporting masks a gender gap of two and a half percentage points in women’s favor as well as a gap of 25 percentage points in ethnic Danes’ favor compared with Danes of immigrant heritage.
Scholars have long noted that couples are more likely to vote compared to individuals who live alone and that partners’ turnout behavior is strongly correlated. With a large administrative dataset containing detailed information about validated turnout and the timing of individuals moving in together, we find evidence for a substantial and robust increase in turnout after cohabitation. We exploit the fact that two-voter households moving in together right before an election are comparable to two-voter households moving in together right after the election. Depending on model specification, turnout increases by 3.5 to 10.6 percentage points in the months after taking up cohabitation. Voters are mobilized regardless of their own and their cohabitant’s turnout behavior in a previous election. The results are robust to several robustness checks, including benchmarking with singles who move to mitigate the cost of moving. The results highlight the importance of social norms and the household’s essential role as a proximate social network that increases turnout.
Citizens who abstain from voting in consecutive elections and inequality in turnout in democratic elections constitute a challenge to the legitimacy of democracy. Applying the law of dispersion, which stipulates higher levels of turnout and higher levels of equality in turnout are positively related, we study turnout patterns across different types of elections in Denmark, a high-turnout European context. Across three different elections with turnout rates from 56.3 to 85.9 percent, we use a rich, nationwide panel dataset of 2.1 million citizens with validated turnout and high-quality sociodemographic variables. Nine percent of the citizens are abstainers in the three consecutive elections, and these are disproportionately male, of non-Western ethnic background, with little education, and with low income. The law of dispersion finds support as inequalities in turnout increase when turnout decreases and vice versa. Furthermore, municipalities with lower turnout have higher inequalities in participation than high-turnout municipalities in local elections.
We investigate how election information such as opinion polls can influence voting intention. The bandwagon effect claims that voters ‘float along’: a party experiencing increased support receives more support and vice versa. Through a large national survey experiment we find evidence of a bandwagon effect among Danish voters. When voters are exposed to a news story describing either an upwards or downwards movement for either a small or large party, they tend to move their voting intentions in the according direction. The effect is strongest in the positive direction, i.e., when a party experiences increased support more follows. We find consistent effects across two different parties, for a diverse national sample in a political context very different from those that have characterized earlier research on the bandwagon effects. Considering previous research and the fact that we do not find evidence that suggests that the effect of polls vary across socio-demographic groups, our results imply that bandwagon behavior is based not on social or political contingencies, such as media or political institution, but on fundamentals of political cognition.
Can Governments Use Get Out The Vote Letters to Solve Europe’s Turnout Crisis? Evidence from a Field Experiment
Declining levels of turnout are a problem in European elections. Are Get Out The Vote campaigns the solution to the problem? While many studies have investigated such campaigns in the US, we know little about their effect in Europe. We present a field experiment in which encouragements to vote in an upcoming Danish election are delivered using direct personal letters to more than 60,000 first-time voters. Eight different letters are designed based on the calculus of voting and prospect theory. The sample is randomly divided into treatment groups or the control group. Using validated turnout, we find small positive effects of receiving a letter on turnout, with little difference across letters. The letters mostly mobilized voters with a low propensity to vote and thus increased equality in participation. In sum, while letters have some effect, they are not likely to be a panacea for solving Europe’s turnout challenges.
How are Voters Influenced by Opinion Polls? The Effect of Polls on Voting Behavior and Party Sympathy
Similar to all other types of information, public opinion polls can influence public opinion. We present two hypotheses to understand how polls affect public opinion: the bandwagon and the underdog effect. The bandwagon effect claims that voters “jump on the bandwagon,” which means that if a party is gaining in the polls, the party will gain additional support from the voters, and vice versa if the party is losing in the polls. The underdog effect suggests that if a party is losing in the polls, the party will gain some sympathy votes to offset this loss. We use a survey experiment to test the two hypotheses. We find evidence of the bandwagon effect, and the effect is strongest in the positive direction. When voters learn that a party is gaining in the polls, voters will be more likely to vote for it. There is also some evidence for the negative bandwagon effect. We find no evidence for the underdog effect. The effects head in the same direction regardless of the size of the party. We conclude by discussing the implications of our findings with regards to a potential ban on publishing opinion polls.