Short-Term And Long-Term Measures To Increase Voter Participation

Recent studies on democracy in developed and developing countries indicate a reduction in voters’ participation (Smith and Tolbert 739). Different countries have taken varying measures of increasing voter participation in civic exercises. The existing literature provides basis for theoretic mechanisms that ballot measures to turn a non-voter to a voter and increase their willingness to take part in voting (Smith, 740; Lacey 169). In participatory democratic theories, there are secondary effects in relation to direct legislation that influence voter participation such as referendums and ballot initiatives. The current study presents both short-term and long-term measures that could influence voter participation. Evidence will prove that both partisan mobilization (short-term) and participatory democratic theory (long-term) results to higher magnitude of voter participation.

Context of Voter Participation and Turnout

Recent scholars have got their attention attracted to long-term and short-term measures to increase direct forms of legislation like referendum and ballot initiative as a way of increasing participation of voters. These measures are aimed at creating a positive democratic citizenship attitude on voter participation. According to Bowler and Donovan, external efficacy of the initiatives is believed to be influenced by exposure to the processes involved. Other critical measures that have been identified in past studies include civic engagement (Smith 740) and voter turnout (Lacey 168). Further, it is established that there is a direct correlation between democratic environments and turnout effect. In other words, direct legislation could stimulate voter turnout via two fundamental mechanisms.

First, there is long-term effects associated with socialization where citizens involved in initiative process are over time result to a population of citizens educated by initiative who demonstrate high likelihood of giving a high turnout in civic processes (Lacey 169). From the study by Smith and Tolbert, it is established that there is a connection between efficacy, knowledge and ballot measures. However, Lacey expresses that ballot measures normally decrease trust levels by the government. The study on long-term effects of exposure for citizens contributes to higher voter participation found a positive correlation between level of awareness and involvement with voter participation rate. When the democratic citizen characteristics are positive, there is higher rate of voter participation.

Secondly, there is short-term social context and campaign effects that involve confrontation of voters through highly stimulus ballot initiatives demobilized and mobilized by interpersonal and discussion relationships. The short-term approach focus on campaigns aimed at increasing voter participation through social networks, neighborhoods and exposure to political processes. These arguments are rooted in the literature as the research has identified explaining existence of long-term and short-term measures that can increase voter participation. The results also consistent from one study to another resulting to significant need to evaluate the short-term and long-term measures for enhancing voter participation.

Long-Term Effects Measures to Increase Voter Participation

From the introductory section, it was demonstrated that there exist long-term measures such as direct democracy that increase voter participation by creating an educative environment for citizens over time. The socialization of voters occur through exposure to the key institutions for direct democracy resulting to high motivation for citizens to turnout and participate in civic processes (Smith and Tolbert 739). There has been growth in disparity since an increasing number of citizens are getting more education on their civic rights and significance of participating in the voting. Another study by Barber and later by Pateman exploited the theoretical models arguing that when citizens are offered more knowledge and opportunities, they are likely to participate in democratic processes (as cited in Dyck et al 188).

However, Hibbing and Theiss-Morse argues that citizens are motivated to take part in exploiting opportunities but not ready to pay the effort of voting participation. Additionally, it is established that there exist greater efforts required for voter mobilization who need to sacrifice their time and resources to take part in voting. The available empirical evidence create emphasis on voters show high propensity to turnout where initiatives are reinforced and properly implemented in comparison to turnout in non-initiative regions (Smith and Tolbert 739). Based on these findings, one can establish that practicing direct democracy through initiatives has a long-term effect on the voter turnout and mobilization since it creates an educative cycle that reinforces the motivation to participate in civic processes. The approach is effective in the long-term since it creates a positive and legitimate mechanism for voter participation. From a behavioral approach on voting, Plutzer argues that continuous exposure of voters to democratic environments results to voters developing a participating behaviours increasing their likelihood of participating in political processes such as voting. These long-term educative efforts result to increase in voter participation.

Short-Term Effects Measures to Increase Voter Participation

The short-term factors are also critical in boosting voter participation in political and civic processes. Awareness creating initiatives and campaigns are aimed at attaining a short-term voter participation (Lacey 168). The potential in short-term is realized in mobilization of the citizens to participate in voting exercises that act as motivation for increasing turnout. These campaigns and initiatives are normally conducted prior to the voter participation exercise resulting to high turnout but normally effective in the short-run (Lacey 169). Saliency is a critical factor that influences the potential of ballot initiatives in mobilizing more citizens to participate in voting. The citizens normally demonstrate a certain level of propensity in participation in politics, especially among those who have undertaken an effective initiative or campaign for mobilization (Grummel 283).

Though these initiatives are not effective in the long-run, they act as short-term mobilization schemes that motivate more participation in voting exercises. Therefore, there is high stimulus expectations on direct legislation being associated with dramatic, enticing and attractive mobilization campaigns with the intention of increasing the turnout (Grummel 282). Regions with such campaigns tend to show higher voter participation than in the regions with low-stimulus campaigns findings that are reinforced by previous studies on direct democracy and turnout (Smith 739; Lacey 169; Grummel 282). Additionally, highly stimulus elections are likely to attract higher participation by voters than low stimulus elections. However, there has been disagreements between political scientists especially on demographics of voters and its influence on those likely influenced by these highly stimulus campaigns and initiatives (Lacey 169).

Additionally, the progress ideal involving disillusioned voters who are less likely to be influenced by campaigns and initiatives due to failure in the political agendas (Grummel 292). Other scholars continue to view highly partisan electoral environment as a critical factor influencing voter participation in respect to salient democratic contests. The concept of direct democracy as a recipe for attracting issue-oriented independent voters who can stay away from an electoral process if their expectations are not met is also a consideration on the short-term focus (Lacey 168). Independent voters are the most difficult voter category to mobilize especially from a short-term basis. For instance, the study conducted by Campbell indicated that turnout surge during the presidential elections does not solely depend on mobilization as a way of increasing voter participation but it is mainly influenced by higher levels of partition by peripheral partisan voters (Campbell, Wong and Citrin 129).

Another study later by Rosenstone and Hansen revealed that turnout surge during the voter participation exercises is not produced by the independent voters, but by the peripheral partisan voters. From these findings, Rosenstone and Hansen tend to dispute the convectional belief that decision on voter participation is influenced by the cost versus benefits analysis by the voters, which is notion highlighted in Downs study. The paradox on voter participation cannot be addressed solely by exploring the cost-benefit analysis on voters but require critical assessment of motivators that could play an essential part in mobilization of voters. The main determinant for individuals to choose whether to participate or not in a voting exercises is normally the contact with the political party, nearness to voting, and extent of citizens overcome rational ignorance through educative and mobilization initiatives that generate interpersonal relationships (Smith 739; Lacey 168; Grummel 282).

First, extent of citizens’ mobilization through interest groups or contacted by political parties or through discussions with others is normally due to saliency (Lacey 169). When the initiatives are classified as high-stimulus, there is likelihood of having to generate more political discussions that result to widespread voters’ engagement producing higher voter participation. Secondly, in a highly salient electoral environment, there is extreme partisan approach where majority of mobilization target the partisan voters (Grummel 282). The ballot initiatives have been proven to be associated with higher voter participation especially in the mid-term elections. Based on existing studies, ballot initiatives promote higher voter participation and indication on its effects in the short-run (Grummel 283). The voters normally mobilized by highly-stimulus electoral initiatives are also likely to be stimulated by the highly salient ballot initiatives. Therefore, the short-term initiatives associated with mobilization have been shown to have a significant impact on voter participation in political electoral processes (Lacey 168).


The research has evaluated both long-term and short-term factors that influence voter participation in electoral processes. Among the short-term measures, voter mobilization campaigns and initiatives take a higher position in influencing the turnout or voter participation. Additionally, educative environment or civic education is viewed to have a long-term influence on voter participation in electoral processes. The research shows higher outcomes in terms of voter participation when both short-term and long-term measures are implemented and reinforced to support voter partition in electoral environment. Furthermore, both educative measures and mobilization measures influence the partisan voters more than independent voters. However, research has indicated that partisan mobilization (short-term) involves short-term measures and participatory democratic theory (long-term) measures where all results to higher magnitude of voter participation. 

01 August 2022
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