"The Authoritarian Turnout Gap: How Civic Duty Helps Autocrats Win Elections"
In electoral autocracies, regime supporters tend to vote at higher rates than regime opponents. This gap gives the regime a built-in electoral advantage. This paper suggests that the root of this gap lies in differing orientations toward civic duty among regime and opposition supporters. Using original survey data from Russia, I present evidence that most voters feel an ethical obligation—a civic duty—to vote. I suggest that the duty to vote under autocracy is rooted not in norms of democratic participation, but rather in reverence for the state. Because autocratic regimes often penetrate and politicize the state, I argue that opposition voters are less likely to revere the state and less likely than regime supporters to believe that voting is a civic duty. Using a previously vali-dated measure of the duty to vote, I find evidence in Russia consistent with these arguments. The theory and findings suggest that authoritarian incumbents have an inherent mobilizational advantage: their supporters feel a duty to vote, but regime opponents do not. This may help explain why opposition parties under autocracy find it hard to turn out their supporters.