The Scar Effects of Unemployment on Electoral Participation: Withdrawal and Mobilisation across European Societies

Does unemployment increase or decrease electoral participation? A considerable body of work has examined this classic question, focusing on individual and contextual unemployment. However, this literature has scarcely examined the role of past experiences of unemployment, and not yet addressed their interaction with contextual unemployment. In this paper, we extend the framework of unemployment scarring to study electoral behaviour. First, we posit that unemployment scars decrease electoral participation. Second, we formulate competing hypotheses on the macro-micro interactions between unemployment scarring and rates at the country, NUTS1 and 2 levels. We test these hypotheses relying on Rounds 4-8 (2008-2016) of the European Social Survey, for 26 countries. Results from logistic regressions with country and year FE indicate that citizens with long unemployment scars are 9% less likely to vote than the non-scarred. We further find that higher unemployment rates at the sub-national levels slightly increase turnout, while there is no significant effect at the country level. For the same levels, we find that lower unemployment rates exacerbate the individual scarring effect on turnout up to 13%. These findings remark how the framework of the scar effects of unemployment can shed further light on the relationship between social stratification and political behaviour.