Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Compulsory Voting and Political Knowledge

If we forced everyone to vote, made it compulsory, would that improve what people know and how engaged they are in the political process?

One study attempted to answer that question.

The authors found, to little surprise, that making voting compulsory will increase turnout. But as to political knowledge -- nope. No real effect.

The idea seems simple enough. If you have to vote, won't you pay attention more? Won't you at least learn a little bit more than usual when you have to pull a lever or push a button or whatever the hell it is you have to do, depending on your place of voting? Unfortunately this Canadian experiment finds no significant effect, and I see no reason why the results would not also extend to the U.S. or anywhere else.

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