Abstract

We study a unique quasi-experiment in Austria, where compulsory voting laws are changed across Austria's nine states at different times. Analyzing all state and national elections since World War II, we show that compulsory voting laws with mild sanctions decreased abstention by roughly 50%. However, we find no evidence that this change in turnout affected government spending patterns (in levels or composition) or the political equilibrium. Individual-level data on turnout and political preferences suggest these results occur because individuals swayed to vote due to compulsory voting are more likely to be non-partisan, have low interest in politics, and are uninformed.