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Politics and International Relations (PIR): Research


Substate Voter Turnout


  • Ailsa Henderson
  • Nicola McEwen (Politics & IR)

Funding scheme

  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, Standard Research Grant
  • Wilfrid Laurier University small research grant

Research assistants

  • Helen Graham, PhD student, Social Policy, University of Edinburgh, 2007-
  • Lucy Abrahams, MSc student, Social Research, University of Edinburgh, 2008
  • Filip Sosenko, PhD student, Sociology, University of Edinburgh, 2005-2006

Project summary

Voter turnout has received considerable attention from political scientists who have attempted to identify predictors of participation, and to explain the general decline in turnout since the 1970s. Much of this literature focuses predominantly upon the state. In so doing it takes the nation-state for granted, assuming homogeneity in political behaviour and voter participation across the regional and territorial boundaries within a state. Very little attention has been devoted to turnout at the sub-state level other than to suggest that sub-state contests are of 'second-order' importance.  At present we have little empirical evidence that the predictors identified for state-level participation apply in different contexts.  This research project employs a comparative approach in order to identify the predictors of voter participation in sub-state elections.  We examine the role played by regional identity and the autonomy of regional institutions to determine whether there are limits to the 'second-order' thesis, in addition to clarifying whether other more traditional predictors of turnout help us to understand voting in a sub-state context.  The project explores state and sub-state voting in the UK, Canada, Germany and Spain, 1980-2005, by using aggregate-level and individual-level data.

Conference papers and publications

  • Ailsa Henderson and Nicola McEwen "Regions as Primary Political Communities: Individual-level predictors of turnout in sub-state elections" Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) annual conference, Manchester, September 2008
  • Ailsa Henderson and Nicola McEwen "Identifying Predictors of Turnout in Sub-state Elections" Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (EPOP) annual conference, Bristol, September 2007
Freshers 2013