Social connectedness and the duty to vote

Autor principal:
Carol Galais (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona)
Sesión 3, Sesión 3
Día: jueves, 8 de septiembre de 2022
Hora: 09:00 a 10:45
Lugar: Aula B2 (19)


The persisting decline trend in voter turnout in the Western world has fueled a vast literature on the conditionings of the decision to vote. Among these, one stands out for its predictive power: the sense of duty to vote. As for the potential explanatory factors and sources of sense of the duty to vote, some scholars have suggested factors related to sociability, social embeddedness, social capital and social networks. Friends, neighbors, acquaintances and partners can potentially make abstainers comply with their civic duty to vote (Denver 2008, Wolfinger & Wolfinger 2008, Goerres 2007, Campbell 1982, Knack 1995 , Gerber et al. 2008;  Bond et al., 2012; Smets and Van Ham, 2013; Blais, Galais & Coulombe 2019; Fieldhouse, Cutts & Bailey, 2020). Most of this literature, however, focus in the social pressure exerted by compliers. The possibly that social connectedness by itself -this is, the size of an individual’s social network, her social capital- might affect a citizen’s senses of duty remains largely unexplored.

Given that sense of duty is a manifestation of an internalized social norm (voting is something that good citizens ought to do), more socially connected individuals have a higher chance to develop a sense of belonging (identity) in regards society, and to be aware of social norms (Smets and Van Ham, 2013; Blais, Galais, and Coulombe, 2019; Bond et al., 2012). In sum, the more an individual is embedded in a social structure, the more likely she would feel dutiful in regards social norms such as the duty to vote.

Recently, Langekamp (2021) has analyzed the relationship between perceived loneliness and civic duty. Two cross-sectional datasets from Germany and the Netherlands reveal that loneliness is associated with a reduced sense of duty to vote which, in turn, reduces the chances to vote. Subjective loneliness “is associated with eroding attachment and connectedness to society and the moral obligation to vote” and hence “can be assumed to be negatively associated with a sense of duty to vote” (:1242).  However, subjective loneliness is volatile (a mood), and can hardly be construed as an antecedent of a stable, abstract social norm, such as the duty to vote. Furthermore, both phenomena (sense of duty and subjective loneliness) are measured with the same cross-sectional, observational instrument. This poses challenges to causality, although the notion that social embeddedness might affect duty -disregard implicit or explicit social pressure-, is worth testing. Is that the case? 

To test the relationship between social connectedness and the sense of duty to vote, this study resorts to a 13-wave panel conducted in Spain. We measure social connectedness with two different items: the number of people an individual lives with, and the number of people she speaks to in a regular day. We estimate the effects of changes in social connectedness on changes in regards sense of duty using a series of fixed-effects panel estimations, finding positive effects in both cases. Furthermore, we test two causal mechanisms -social trust and values- for this relationship, by means of panel mediation analyses.  Our study sheds some light on the mechanisms connecting social capital and norms, in general, and more specifically on the link between social networks and sense of duty.

Palabras clave: deber cívico, deber de votar, sociabilidad, capital social, metodología de encuestas, encuestas panel, mediación panel