Moroccan Parliament Building

Rabat, Morocco

Why Don't Young People Vote?

 

My first project argues that Tunisia is a unique context where youth-led protests in 2011 led to a successful democratic transition followed by elections where voters experienced democracy for the first time. This is an ideal context for assessing the forces that explain the broader pattern of low youth voter turnout across the world. In this study, I test a variety of theories used to explain youth voter abstention such as lack of socio-demographic resources, disconnect from politics, heightened political cynicism, values and norms, and lack of mobilization efforts. Data from six different surveys show that none of these theories explain the pervasive relationship between age and voting. Thus, the puzzling nature of youth voter abstention remains unsolved despite using a rich variety of data coupled with the context that Tunisian youth were particularly “primed” for participation after the revolution.

 

The Impact of Descriptive Representation on Youth Turnout

My second project explores the impact of electoral reforms instated prior to Tunisia's inaugural post-revolution municipal elections that occurred in May 2018. Tunisia implemented several revisions to the electoral code that promoted youth and women engagement as political candidates. These reforms were theorized to positively impact the voter behavior of these two groups. In terms of candidates, major improvements were made in increasing the participation of women and youth. However, voter participation appeared unaffected. I investigate the efficacy of these electoral reforms that seek to promote inclusiveness by using original survey data that includes an experiment measuring the impact of  descriptive representation on positive evaluations of candidates coupled with election data from Tunisia's Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE). I find that the increased presence of youth candidates had little impact on youth in general, but had a significant impact among young females. This study is currently under review at Electoral Studies.

Social Pressures to Vote in a New Democracy

My third project explores whether social norms to vote automatically manifest in a nascent democratic context. Studies in the field of political behavior argue that citizens cast a ballot due to social pressures. People are fearful of facing retribution for failing to cast ballot and/or they seek a social reward or to be in favor among their peers for doing the "right" thing. Using an original survey experiment conducted in Tunisia eight years after the revolution, I find that Tunisians feel strongly that every citizens should vote in a democracy, but they are not yet socially pressuring one another based on their voter behavior. This finding holds important implications for the study of democratization, political development, and behavior.  Thus, I  argue that social pressures to vote likely manifest over time and are not automatically inherent when a country democratizes.

Visiting Tunisia's Parliament Building

Tunis, Tunisia