Turnout Rates Among the Rich and Poor

A while ago Andy asked “Is India unique in having higher voter turnout among the poor than the middle class and rich?“. I recently attended the 2013 International Society for New Institutional Economics Annual Conference, and just watched a very interesting presentation by Columbia University political scientist Kimuli Kasara on “When do the Rich Vote Less than the Poor and Why? Explaining Turnout Inequality across the World”. The full paper she presented is available here, but the following figure caught my eye as an answer to Andy’s question:


Note that although it does not include India, the figure (which can be enlarged by clicking on it) does provide some comparative context. Note as well the role of the US – and, interestingly, Poland and Zambia – as outliers in terms of having over-representation of the well-off citizens among voters.

3 Responses to Turnout Rates Among the Rich and Poor

  1. Andrew Gelman July 5, 2013 at 8:37 am #


    Thanks! But why no data for India? That’s a famous case.

  2. John Carey July 6, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

    I, too, was struck by the data in this map and the results in the Kasara and Suranarayan paper, which I’m confident is carefully done. However, in the course working on a related topic, in collaboration with Yusaku Horiuchi, we found a quite different pattern in the relationship between self-reported income and self-reported turnout in the most recent election. We are using data from the Latin American Public Opinion Project (LAPOP), the round of surveys from 2012. The data allow us to break respondents into household income deciles, and also indicate whether they voted in the most recent presidential election. (This is Latin America — all presidential.) One can cut the data various ways — comparing turnout in the top quintile to the bottom quintile, as K&S do, or other approaches — but however we have done it so far, we find no countries in which lower-income respondents report measurably higher turnout rates than higher-income respondents, and about 1/3 of countries where there is a statistically discernible positive socioeconomic bias to turnout (that is, rich vote more than poor — no normative implication to “positive”). Keep in mind, this is only for Latin America, but even in that region, the turnout bias as we measure is it quite different from what K&S find. We are continuing to work on this, and will try to get a more complete result up and available for circulation later this summer. (We are both are traveling and away from our regular work stations.) For now, just a note of caution before we conclude that what we used to think we knew about turnout bias is necessarily wrong. The data we’ve examined so far look much more like the conventional wisdom.

  3. Miguel Madeira July 8, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    The pictures is with wealth, and the study the John Carey is talking is about income; could be this the difference?