Who to blame? The role of political parties in electoral turnout

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The last Dutch local election in March 2022 had relatively low turnout compared to earlier years. In the media, but also in academia, a new debate rose about the role of political parties in turnout. This thesis tries to address the question to what extent do political parties play a role in electoral turnout. From the party system literature, a theoretical model, consisting of three broad criteria, was designed to address the role of parties most completely. The three criteria are the number of parties, the competition between parties, and the distinctiveness of the party system. These three broad and interlinked criteria in this theoretical model were then tested on the Dutch local election of 2018. Using aggregated polling station data to the neighborhood level, combined with several other party and neighborhood statistics, several multilevel linear regression analyses were run. This thesis finds that parties play a role in electoral turnout, especially the number of parties and the distinctiveness of the party system. More specifically, the number of parties, perceived party polarization and, in certain cases, local party types have a negative significant effect on turnout. Actual party polarization has a positive significant effect on turnout. No effect was found on short-term competition, or the presence of populist parties on the election list on turnout.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen