The telegraph and turnout. Evidence from Sweden
Guillem Amatller Dómine is a Predoctoral Fellow at IBEI and PhD candidate at Pompeu Fabra in Political Science (Barcelona).
Electoral turnout varied a lot within nineteenth-century states. This paper examines one explanation for these varying levels of turnout: the telegraph. We estimate the effect of the expansion of the electric telegraph network on electoral turnout using district-level panel data from the Swedish elections of 1872, 1875, and 1878. The telegraph contributed to higher turnout since it connected local communities to a national communication network that brought news from the capital, which made people more aware of national politics and therefore more motivated to vote. Our work is closely related to that of Wang (2019), which examines the relationship between telegraph connections and turnout in presidential elections in the United States in 1844–1852, but there are several differences between 1840s United States and 1870s Sweden that warrant attention and that distinguish our work. Most importantly, in 1840s United States, most white men could vote and turnout was already very high, but in 1870s Sweden, only a small minority of adult men could vote, with average turnout remaining low.
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