Public Choice

, Volume 156, Issue 3–4, pp 611–629 | Cite as

Public employees lining up at the polls—the conditional effect of living and working in the same municipality

  • Yosef Bhatti
  • Kasper M. Hansen


Do public employees vote more frequently than private employees? The turnout of public employees has been of central interest to public choice scholars for almost a century. Utilizing a government records dataset that is not subject to over-reporting and differential social desirability bias, we find that public employees voted 11–12 percentage points more than their counterparts in the private sector. In a multivariate analysis, however, the effect is only four to five percentage points greater for local government public employees, which is in the lower range of previous studies. We are able to distinguish between local government and central government employees and show that the latter vote two percentage points less than the former. Controlling for the specific type of educational background does not explain the public–private turnout differential. Finally, the effect of working and voting in the same municipality is larger for local government employees than other citizens. This is in accordance with their greater incentives as they elect their future employer, though the effect size is surprisingly small.


Public employees Private employees Bureaucrats Turnout Public choice 



Earlier versions of this article were presented at seminars at the Danish Institute of Governmental Research and University of Copenhagen. We are also indebted to André Blais, Wouter van der Brug, Mark Franklin, Karina Kosiara-Pedersen, Asmus Leth Olsen and the anonymous reviewers for very useful comments and suggestions. Our gratitude also goes to The Danish Ministry for Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs and the Danish Ministry of Interior and Health for funding the project and to the participating municipalities for graciously providing the voter files free of charge. Jon Jay Neufeld proofread the manuscript. None of the individuals or institutions mentioned would necessarily endorse this study or should be held responsible for its content.


  1. Bhatti, Y., & Hansen, K. M. (2010). Valgdeltagelsen ved kommunalvalget 17. november 2009. Beskrivende analyser af valgdeltagelsen baseret på registerdata (Working Paper No. 3). Department of Political Science, University of Copenhagen. Google Scholar
  2. Bennett, J. T., & Orzechowski, W. P. (1983). The voting behavior of bureaucrats: some empirical evidence. Public Choice, 41(2), 271–283. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bernstein, R., Chadha, A., & Montjoy, R. (2001). Overreporting voting: why it happens and why it matters. Public Opinion Quarterly, 65(1), 22–44. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Blais, A. (2000). To vote or not to vote?: The merits and limits of rational choice theory. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Google Scholar
  5. Blais, A., Blake, D. E., & Dion, S. (1990). The public/private sector cleavage in North America: the political behavior and attitudes of public sector employees. Comparative Political Studies, 23, 381–403. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blais, A., Blake, D. E., & Dion, S. (1991). The voting behavior of bureaucrats. In A. Blais & S. Dion (eds.) The budget-maximizing bureaucrat: appraisals and evidence (pp. 205–230). Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Google Scholar
  7. Blom-Hansen, J., Monkerud, L. C., & Sørensen, R. (2006). Do parties matter for local revenue policies? A comparison of Denmark and Norway. European Journal of Political Research, 45(3), 445–465. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bush, W. C., & Denzau, A. (1977). The voting behavior of bureaucrats and public sector growth. In T. E. Borcherding (ed.) Budgets and bureaucrats: the sources of government growth (pp. 90–99). Durham: Duke University Press. Google Scholar
  9. Campbell, A., Gurin, G., & Miller, W. E. (1954). The voter decides. Evanston: Peterson. Google Scholar
  10. Campbell, A., Converse, P., Miller, W., & Stokes, D. (1960). The American voter. New York: Wiley. Google Scholar
  11. Corey, E. C., & Garand, J. C. (2002). Are government employees more likely to vote? An analysis of turnout in the 1996 US national election. Public Choice, 111(3–4), 259–283. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Denny, K., & Doyle, O. (2009). Does voting history matter? Analysing persistence in turnout. American Journal of Political Science, 53(1), 17–35. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Denver, D. (2008). Another reason to support marriage? Turnout and the decline of marriage in Britain. British Journal of Political Science, 10(4), 666–680. Google Scholar
  14. Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper. Google Scholar
  15. Dyck, J. J., & Gimpel, J. G. (2005). Distance, turnout, and the convenience of voting. Social Science Quarterly, 86(3), 531–548. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Elklit, J., & Kjær, U. (2009). Split-ticket voting in times of sub-national government reorganisation: evidence from Denmark. Scandinavian Political Studies, 32(4), 422–439. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Elklit, J., Møller, B., Svensson, P., & Togeby, L. (2000). Hvem stemmer—og hvem stemmer ikke? En analyse af valgdeltagelsen i København og Århus ved kommunal-bestyrelsesvalgene i 1997. Århus: Danish Democracy and Power Study. Google Scholar
  18. Franklin, M. (2004). Voter turnout and the dynamics of electoral competition in established democracies since 1945. New York: Cambridge University Press. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Frey, B. S., & Pommerehne, W. W. (1982). How powerful are public bureaucrats as voters? Public Choice, 38(3), 253–262. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Garand, J. C. (1988). Explaining government growth in the U.S. states. American Political Science Review, 82(3), 837–849. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Garand, J. C., Parkhurst, C. T., & Seoud, R. J. (1991a). Bureaucrats, policy attitudes, and political behavior: extension of the bureau voting model of government growth. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 1(2), 177–212. Google Scholar
  22. Garand, J. C., Parkhurst, C. T., & Seoud, R. J. (1991b). Testing the bureau voting model: a research note on federal and state-local employees. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 1(2), 229–233. Google Scholar
  23. Gerber, A. S., Green, D. P., & Shachar, R. (2003). Voting may be habit-forming: evidence from a randomized field experiment. American Political Science Review, 47(3), 540–550. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Highton, B. (2000). Residential mobility, community mobility, and electoral participation. Political Behavior, 22(2), 109–121. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Highton, B., & Wolfinger, W. E. (2001). The first seven years of the political life cycle. American Journal of Political Science, 45(1), 202–209. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hillygus, S. D. (2005). The missing link: exploring the relationship between higher education and political engagement. Political Behavior, 27(1), 25–47. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Jaarsma, B., Schram, A., & van Winden, F. (1986). On the voting participation of public bureaucrats. Public Choice, 48(2), 183–187. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Jensen, J. L., Sum, P. E., & Flynn, D. T. (2009). Political orientations and behavior of public employees: a cross-national comparison. Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory, 19(4), 709–730. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Johnson, R. N., & Libecap, G. D. (1991). Public-sector employee voter participation and salaries. Public Choice, 68(1–3), 137–150. Google Scholar
  30. Karp, J., & Brockington, D. (2005). Social desirability and response validity: a comparative analysis of overreporting voter turnout in five countries. Journal of Politics, 67(2), 825–840. Google Scholar
  31. Knutsen, O. (2005). The impact of sector employment on party choice: a comparative study of eight West European countries. European Journal of Political Research, 44(4), 593–621. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Leighley, J. E., & Nagler, J. (1992). Individual and systemic influences on turnout: who votes? 1984. Journal of Politics, 54(3), 718–740. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Martin, R. (1933). The municipal electorate: a case study. Southwestern Social Science Quarterly, 16(December), 193–237. Google Scholar
  34. Milbrath, L. W., & Goel, M. L. (1977). Political participation: how and why do people get involved in politics? (2nd ed.). Lanham: University Press of America. Google Scholar
  35. Mouritzen, P. E. (2003). Kommunestyret i Danmark: Bæredygtighed og demokrati. In P. E. Mouritzen & U. Kjær (eds.) Kommunestørrelse og demokrati. Odense: University Press of Southern Denmark. Google Scholar
  36. Niskanen, W. (1971). Bureaucracy and representative government. Chicago: Aldine-Atherton. Google Scholar
  37. Plutzer, E. (2002). Becoming a habitual voter: inertia, resources, and growth in young adulthood. American Political Science Review, 96(1), 41–56. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Riker, W. H., & Ordeshook, P. C. (1968). Theory of calculus of voting. American Political Science Review, 62(1), 25–42. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Tingsten, H. (1937). Political behavior: studies in election statistics. New York: Arno Press. Google Scholar
  40. Verba, S., & Nye, N. (1972). Participation in America: political democracy and social equality. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Google Scholar
  41. Wolfinger, R. E., & Rosenstone, S. J. (1980). Who votes? New Haven: Yale University Press. Google Scholar
  42. Wolfinger, N., & Wolfinger, R. E. (2008). Family structure and turnout. Social Forces, 8(4), 1513–1528. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Xu, J. (2005). Why do minorities participate less? The effects of immigration, education, and electoral process on Asian American voter registration and turnout. Social Science Research, 34(4), 682–702. CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagen KDenmark

Personalised recommendations