Abstentionism, Voting Advice Applications and Voting Activation

Javier Ramos 1 , Javier Padilla 2 ,  and Enrique Chueca 3
  • 1 Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Madrid, Spain
  • 2 London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
  • 3 King’s College London, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
Javier Ramos, Javier Padilla
  • Corresponding author
  • London School of Economics and Political Science, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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and Enrique Chueca
  • King’s College London, London, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland
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Abstract

Voting Advice Applications (VAAs) have proliferated in the last decade as part of electoral campaigns in Europe. Several studies have linked the usage of the applications to an increase in voting intention, yet the literature on the factors that make people more likely to be influenced by VAAs is not really developed. This paper tries to contribute to this literature by addressing two key questions: first, how non-institutional forms of political participation influence abstentionism among VAA users and second, how VAA encourages voting intention among these politically engaged abstentionists (activation effect). We first examine (a) whether being engaged in non-institutional forms of participation increases the likelihood of a VAA user declaring him/herself to be a voter and (b) whether being engaged in non-institutional forms of political participation has an effect on the probability of becoming a “voter” after filling in the VAA questionnaire. Our results suggest that the VAA “activation effect” nexus exists and it affects a significant percentage of abstentionist. Those users that have participated in non-institutional forms of participation – such as demonstrations or online petitions – are more likely to declare being voters before filling in the VAA. Among the abstentionists, once they answered the set of 30 key questions, a considerable percent (between 14 and 22 percent depending on the threshold used) declared to have the intention to vote (activation effect). The prevailing profile of the activated user is a young man with tertiary education. The motivational reason for voting a party also matter in increasing the probability that an “activation effect” happens. The competency of the party, its ideology, the candidate presented by the party and the users’ self-interest are also good predictors of the “activation effect.”

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