Do Surveys Overestimate or Underestimate Socioeconomic Differences in Voter Turnout? Evidence from Administrative Registers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

Surveys generally overestimate the overall level of voter turnout in elections due to both the misreporting of voting and nonresponse. It is sometimes argued that socioeconomic differences in turnout are exaggerated in surveys because social desirability has a more pronounced effect on eligible voters in more advantaged socioeconomic positions. However, the contribution of nonresponse bias has not been taken into consideration in these assessments. Using a register-linked survey with information on the education, occupational social class, income, and voting in the 2015 Finnish parliamentary elections of both respondents and nonrespondents, this study shows that nonresponse bias leads to not only a larger overestimation of the overall level of turnout than social desirability, but also an underestimation of educational, social class, and income-related differences in the propensity to vote. Socioeconomic differences in the probability of voting in register-based data were at least two-thirds larger than differences obtained when using standard survey techniques. This finding implies that socioeconomic inequality in electoral participation is a more pressing social problem than previous evidence might indicate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPublic Opinion Quarterly
Volume83
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)363–385
Number of pages23
ISSN0033-362X
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 13 Sep 2019
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed

Fields of Science

  • 5141 Sociology
  • 517 Political science

Cite this

@article{e48e51ea73eb4f14bad305f8b4464691,
title = "Do Surveys Overestimate or Underestimate Socioeconomic Differences in Voter Turnout?: Evidence from Administrative Registers",
abstract = "Surveys generally overestimate the overall level of voter turnout in elections due to both the misreporting of voting and nonresponse. It is sometimes argued that socioeconomic differences in turnout are exaggerated in surveys because social desirability has a more pronounced effect on eligible voters in more advantaged socioeconomic positions. However, the contribution of nonresponse bias has not been taken into consideration in these assessments. Using a register-linked survey with information on the education, occupational social class, income, and voting in the 2015 Finnish parliamentary elections of both respondents and nonrespondents, this study shows that nonresponse bias leads to not only a larger overestimation of the overall level of turnout than social desirability, but also an underestimation of educational, social class, and income-related differences in the propensity to vote. Socioeconomic differences in the probability of voting in register-based data were at least two-thirds larger than differences obtained when using standard survey techniques. This finding implies that socioeconomic inequality in electoral participation is a more pressing social problem than previous evidence might indicate.",
keywords = "5141 Sociology, 517 Political science",
author = "Lahtinen, {Hannu Antero} and Martikainen, {Pekka Tapani} and Mattila, {Vesa Mikko} and Wass, {Hanna Maria} and Lauri Rapeli",
year = "2019",
month = "9",
day = "13",
doi = "10.1093/poq/nfz022",
language = "English",
volume = "83",
pages = "363–385",
journal = "Public Opinion Quarterly",
issn = "0033-362X",
publisher = "Oxford University Press",
number = "2",

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TY - JOUR

T1 - Do Surveys Overestimate or Underestimate Socioeconomic Differences in Voter Turnout?

T2 - Evidence from Administrative Registers

AU - Lahtinen, Hannu Antero

AU - Martikainen, Pekka Tapani

AU - Mattila, Vesa Mikko

AU - Wass, Hanna Maria

AU - Rapeli, Lauri

PY - 2019/9/13

Y1 - 2019/9/13

N2 - Surveys generally overestimate the overall level of voter turnout in elections due to both the misreporting of voting and nonresponse. It is sometimes argued that socioeconomic differences in turnout are exaggerated in surveys because social desirability has a more pronounced effect on eligible voters in more advantaged socioeconomic positions. However, the contribution of nonresponse bias has not been taken into consideration in these assessments. Using a register-linked survey with information on the education, occupational social class, income, and voting in the 2015 Finnish parliamentary elections of both respondents and nonrespondents, this study shows that nonresponse bias leads to not only a larger overestimation of the overall level of turnout than social desirability, but also an underestimation of educational, social class, and income-related differences in the propensity to vote. Socioeconomic differences in the probability of voting in register-based data were at least two-thirds larger than differences obtained when using standard survey techniques. This finding implies that socioeconomic inequality in electoral participation is a more pressing social problem than previous evidence might indicate.

AB - Surveys generally overestimate the overall level of voter turnout in elections due to both the misreporting of voting and nonresponse. It is sometimes argued that socioeconomic differences in turnout are exaggerated in surveys because social desirability has a more pronounced effect on eligible voters in more advantaged socioeconomic positions. However, the contribution of nonresponse bias has not been taken into consideration in these assessments. Using a register-linked survey with information on the education, occupational social class, income, and voting in the 2015 Finnish parliamentary elections of both respondents and nonrespondents, this study shows that nonresponse bias leads to not only a larger overestimation of the overall level of turnout than social desirability, but also an underestimation of educational, social class, and income-related differences in the propensity to vote. Socioeconomic differences in the probability of voting in register-based data were at least two-thirds larger than differences obtained when using standard survey techniques. This finding implies that socioeconomic inequality in electoral participation is a more pressing social problem than previous evidence might indicate.

KW - 5141 Sociology

KW - 517 Political science

U2 - 10.1093/poq/nfz022

DO - 10.1093/poq/nfz022

M3 - Article

VL - 83

SP - 363

EP - 385

JO - Public Opinion Quarterly

JF - Public Opinion Quarterly

SN - 0033-362X

IS - 2

ER -