The Coronavirus Pandemic and Voter Turnout. Addressing the Impact of Covid-19 on Electoral Participation


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Type of work: Working Paper


Politics and Political Science


COVID19, elections


External shocks have been shown to be able to alter countries’ political dynamics in a deep manner. The number of works examining the impact of economic crisis, natural disasters or even terrorist attacks are numerous. However, the literature addressing the political effects of the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is still in its infancy. Definitively, the pandemic has constituted an unpredictable external shock not only affecting the health of millions around the planet but also damaging the economic and social stability of most countries. Politically, it has forced electoral authorities in some countries to postpone elections (e.g. Kiribati, North Macedonia, Sri Lanka), to suspend voting rights for those infected with the virus (e.g. Galicia and Basque Country in Spain) or to adapt postal vote regulations (e.g. Bavaria in Germany) in order to guarantee citizens’ voting rights and diminish electoral fraud. Trying to fill a lacuna in the literature, the goal of this article is to give a first and nuanced examination on how the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted electoral participation all over the world. To that end we have collected data on all parliamentary, presidential and regional elections held worldwide during the first seven months since the COVID-19 outbreak became recognized as a health emergency of global scope and started to affect the organization of elections (March 1st-September 30th, 2020). Our results show that while voter turnout has not generally declined in comparison with those elections held before the pandemic, electoral participation is lower in polities hit by the pandemic the most, both in terms of infections and – especially - deceases. This seems to point to the fact that when faced with a choice (civic duty vs. personal risk), the fear of becoming infected will constrain voters to opt for the former.


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Full document:
Santana, A., Rama, J. & Casal Bértoa, F. (2020). The Coronavirus Pandemic and Voter Turnout. Addressing the Impact of Covid-19 on Electoral Participation. Ithaca: Cornell University.