Explaining the Federal-Provincial Turnout Gap in the Canadian Provinces

Lori Thorlakson


Second order election models predict that voter turnout will generally be lower in ‘second order’ subnational elections compared to ‘first order’ federal elections. In Canada, we find that this is not always the case: some provinces have higher turnout rates for provincial elections than federal elections. Using data from seven Canadian provincial elections, this article examines how attitudes such as trust, satisfaction with democracy and interest in politics compare across levels of government in order to explain cross-provincial differences in voter turnout. It finds that while contextual factors matter, interest in provincial politics is one of the strongest predictors of high provincial turnout relative to federal turnout.

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@Canadian Political Science Review (CPSR). ISSN 1911-4125