Meta-analysis: Why do citizens vote (or not) in national elections?

Carolien van Ham, Kaat Smets

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The question why people choose to vote or abstain in national elections has been extensively researched in past decades. Yet, disagreement over what drives citizens to the polls persists. Literally over a hundred different explanatory factors have been linked to the individual’s decision to vote or abstain: ranging from individual characteristics like education, age and political interest, to socialization by friends and parents, to characteristics of the election like political competition, and many more. Slowly but surely it has become difficult to see the wood for the trees. In the research project that we describe in this chapter, we wanted to take a step back and summarize where we stand and what we know about turnout. To this end, we carried out a meta-analysis of 90 empirical studies of individual level voter turnout in national elections between 2000 and 2010. This allowed us to identify which variables are consistently linked to turnout, and which are not. In this chapter we describe what meta-analysis is, and give an example of how to carry out meta-analysis by describing our research project on turnout.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSAGE Research Methods Cases
ISBN (Electronic)9781446273050
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • Meta-analysis
  • Review study
  • Turnout

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