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Content archived on 2024-05-29

How Mobilizing is the Local Context? Turnout in Local Elections in New EU Member and Associated Candidate States


Sub-national politics and elections remain understudied fields in Europe. Given the role of localities as the training ground of democracy, the neglect of local elections is all the more striking in the new democracies that recently joined the European Union or await accession.

To contribute to fill this gap, this project seeks to identify factors that shape turnout in local elections in countries that integrated the EU in May 2004 as well as in accession candidate states (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia and Bulgaria, Croatia, Romania).

Using original survey data as well as extensive local-level electoral and statistical data, the research investigates three aspects framing local political participation: firstly, the influence of institutional factors such as electoral systems and local government autonomy and resources. Secondly, political party competition, and welfare spending as an outcome of local politics. Thirdly, the research examines the impact of local media presence, ownership and coverage of local politics on citizens' involvement in local elections.

The project draws from theory and empirical research from local governance, voting behaviour and party politics, welfare state and policy studies, as well as political communication to shed light on a neglected but important aspect of political behaviour.

The results will contribute to further our understanding of macro determinants of turnout in non-national electoral contests, as well as participation levels in general by accounting for the spatially uneven character of political institutions, processes and outcomes.

Focusing on turnout variation between localities while taking into account the particularities of different local government systems, the analysis proposes to highlight factors with an adverse impact on turnout that can be modified by local communities themselves.

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