Last day to register to vote! Why be bothered?

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In this blog, City-REDI’s policy and data analyst Tasos Kitsos discusses economic insights on voting.

Claxon! Last day to register to vote! It takes more time to read this blog than register to vote so if you only have 5 minutes, I’d rather you spend them here and ignore the text below.

There are tens of good reasons to vote. My personal favourite is that once you stop using a right, you are increasingly likely to lose it!

Yet there are about 7 million people in the UK eligible but not registered to vote.

I am currently involved in some research on distributive politics which examines how voting affects the funding decisions from central government to the local level so I thought it is good time to share some insights.

Firstly, you will not be surprised to find out that economists disagree. Thus, there is a theory that says funding from central government will flow to areas where their core voters live in order to secure future votes. Another theory suggests that funding will be directed to constituencies that are more marginal – meaning they are more susceptible to switch from one party to the other (swing voter hypothesis). A very good overview of these theories is provided by Golden and Min (2013).

Another strand in this field of research investigates whether the political alignment of local to central governance influences the share of funding flowing from the latter to the former. Numerous studies, including ours, find that this alignment tends to increase funding to the local area in a range of countries.

In this respect, we would expect Andy Street’s election to bring in some extra funding to the WMCA so good news! Also if we believe the swing-voter hypothesis, the fact that the result was very marginal, is even more encouraging!

Our study, which is not focusing on the UK, besides confirming the alignment hypothesis has one more critical finding. We find that electoral turnout has a positive effect on central government funding. This means that areas where more people go to vote, tend to receive larger transfers from the central government.

This makes sense once we think that money is limited and a greater electoral turnover means potentially more votes if money is spent on the relevant constituencies. The technical term for this is electoral productivity and our study is not the only one to identify it.

There is no good reason to believe that these results will not be relevant for the UK, even though we cannot confirm this through research. Yet.

So, even if the ‘philosophical’ (yet very real if you ask me) reason for voting is not enough, maybe a financial argument could convince you.

For more info on this research or my other projects you can follow me on Twitter or Linkedin.

You can also follow City-REDI on Twitter and Linkedin



Golden, M. & Min, B. (2013) ‘Distributive Politics Around the World’. Annual Review of Political Science, 16 pp 73-99.


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