Fishing for votes? Income shocks and the opportunity cost of voting

Project Active from to State

While economists have long argued that the opportunity cost of voting exceeds the private benefits – that is an individual vote is unlikely to affect the outcome of an election in a meaningful way – policies or events that affect the opportunity cost of voting at a more aggregate level have the potential to shape election and policy outcomes. This is especially the case if the opportunity cost of voting varies differentially across subgroups of the population, increasing the likelihood that the government, affecting economic, social, and policy outcomes will underrepresent these groups.

The goal of this project is to identify whether changes to the opportunity cost of voting for the poor affect election outcomes in Indonesia, and if so, whether such changes affect economic and policy outcomes. The project consists of two basic phases. First, we construct a database consisting of voter turnout and election outcomes at the district level from all local and national elections in Indonesia since the year 2000. We will combine this data with remote sensing data on fishing conditions at the time of the elections to explore how the opportunity cost of voting for fishermen affects voter turnout and election outcomes.

Second, we will use our findings from the first stage to explore the impact of voter turnout on local economic and policy outcomes, such as public good provision and the implementation of pro-poor policies. In doing so we seek to understand the economic, social, and distributional consequences of electoral participation.