Events of Department of Economics
May 29, 2019 at 12:30
Seminar Room 5.e4.sr04 - Via Roentgen 1
Development Labor Political Economy - DLPE
Voting for Democracy: Chile's Plebiscito and the Electoral Participation of a Generation
Ethan Kaplan (University of Maryland)
Ethan Kaplan (University of Maryland) Abstract
Augusto Pinochet's autocratic military regime ruled Chile between 1973 and 1990. A 1988 plebiscite reintroduced democratic rule to Chile. Voter registration began in February, 1987 and remained open through August, 1988. This paper assesses to what extent participation in a referendum on democracy itself affects long-term voting behavior. We implement a regression discontinuity design comparing long run registration rates and voter turnout rates for those who were marginally age eligible to those who were marginally ineligible. We find that 1988 Plebiscite participation increased voter turnout three decades later in the 2017 presidential election by 1.7 percentage points and voting in 1988 increased participation by three decades later in the 2017 Presidential election. Subsequent Presidential elections did not have a sizable or statistically significant impact upon 2017 voter turnout. Given the low turnout rates prevalent in Chile, the Plebiscite effect is 5.8% of total turnout in the 2017 election. Effects are larger for men and for those without a high school degree and in counties with a higher left-wing vote share. Effect sizes are large enough to have been pivotal in most presidential elections from 1989 to 2010. Our results suggest that voter turnout persistence from participation in an initial democratic election can help explain one party dominance in recently democratized countries.