A Widening Generational Divide? The Age Gap in Voter Turnout Through Time and Space

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This research departs from the observation in the literature that some countries, such as Canada, Great Britain and the United States, in recent years witness a widening of the gap in turnout between younger and older citizens. Based on election study data from ten countries this article shows that the trend toward a widening generational divide is not observed in all Western democracies and that over-time trends in the age gap as a matter of fact are decidedly varied. In an attempt to explain over-time patterns and between-country differences, this research focuses on changing societal characteristics and changes in characteristics of elections. More specifically, the idea that over-time variation in the transition to adulthood has been overlooked as an explanation of declining turnout levels among young voters takes a central place. The findings indicate that delayed transitions to adulthood lead to increased divergence in turnout levels between younger and older voters. Characteristics of elections, measured through indicators of electoral saliency, are not found to have a significant impact on trends in the age gap in voter turnout.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)407-430
JournalJournal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 8 Nov 2012


  • Turnout
  • Age gap
  • Young adults
  • Transition to adulthood
  • Comparative research

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