Voting on a weekday is not equal to low turnout: what happened in the 33 times that in Spain we did not vote on Sunday

Voting on a weekday is not equal to low turnout: what happened in the 33 times that in Spain we did not vote on Sunday

The regional elections of the Community of Madrid have revolutionized the political scene in Madrid and the country. There are many factors that have made this election the focus of media interest in recent weeks: since its controversial call And later judicial support to climbing twitching that has dominated the entire campaign, going through a 43% increase in vote-by-mail requests or the fact that they are held in the middle of a pandemic. And, in addition, they fall on Tuesday.

In Spain, voting on a weekday is not the norm, but it is not the exception either. These elections will be the thirty-fourth to be held on a day other than Sunday in our country. It has occurred on several occasions both at the municipal, general and European level, and also in practically all the autonomous communities at some point in their history. Did this mean an increase in abstention? has compiled the results of all the elections and referendums held since the restoration of democracy and the result of the analysis is that no: there is no relationship between going to the polls on a weekday and a drop in participation.

Since the date of the call was known, many questions have hovered around the possible electoral participation of the 4M - especially in relation to the workers rights to go to vote that day or to conciliation-. Many elements will come into play in the Community of Madrid next Tuesday and although we will have to wait for the post-election analysis to assess them, we can know how was the participation in other electoral events in Spain.

What to expect when holding an election on Sunday? A priori, the fact that there are more hours to go to vote could translate into an increase in participation. However, the experts consulted by agree: it doesn't have to.

For example, the autonomous elections of Cantabria in 1987 fell on Wednesday and, however, abstention did not even reach 25% (in fact, they were the elections with the most participation of this community). On the other hand, the Andalusian of 1990 or the Catalan of 2006 also took place on a weekday and recorded very high abstention figures. It may also happen that participation remains stable with respect to the community average, regardless of the day the elections are held, as has happened in Aragón, Castilla-La Mancha or Extremadura.

"Abstention has very structural characteristics that are difficult to change from one day to the next," explains Professor of Political Science at the Carlos III University Sílvia Claveria. "Participation is also influenced by other types of factors, such as the degree of competition between the different parties, the level of polarization or whether a very powerful framework has been established to go to vote. If we could isolate the working / non-working effect from the rest of factors, it would probably affect participation negatively, although very marginally ", comments the expert.

An opinion shared by Manuel Rodríguez, political consultant, and Alejandro Tirado, professor at UC3M, both political scientists and analysts in Civic Chamber. "There are a series of factors that affect the voter's calculation when deciding whether to vote or not. We could talk about civic commitment, the level of disaffection with the party system, the voter's loyalty to his party or to a candidacy in particular ... but also more earthly issues such as being out of town, being too busy for family or work issues or, simply, there are those who forget. "

Although "several of these factors could be corrected by voting on the weekend, when it is more likely that the electorate can reconcile family and work life with civic life", political scientists conclude that in Spain "there is not a strong enough cause-effect relationship as if to affirm that voting during the week always supposes a decrease in participation ".

The historical results of the elections and consultations held in Spain since 1976 show that, indeed, the day of the week on which they took place does not seem to be the determining factor. The first elections and referendums of the seventies and eighties and the autonomous elections of Catalonia in 2017 are the clearest example of this.

"The elections in Catalonia in 2017 were held on Thursday and the turnout was super high. They took place after the October 1st, there was a lot of polarization and everyone was called to vote ", Claveria recalls. That December 21 they went to the polls almost 80% of the Catalans summoned, making 21D the regional elections with the highest participation in history in Catalonia.

Also the first elections to the Congress of Deputies had high participation rates, despite having been called on Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, the general elections of 1977 only had an abstention of 21.1%, and those of 1982 were the most massive in the history of Spain, with a participation of 80%. As the professor at the Carlos III University recalls, at that time "they were leaving the dictatorship and voting was really very important."

On the other hand, in the autonomous elections of Galicia (1981) and Andalusia (1990) the opposite occurred: they were also among the first in those regions after the restoration of democracy, they also fell on a weekday and, nevertheless, obtained the highest abstention rates those communities have seen. In the Galician women, 53.7% abstained from the census, and in the Andalusian women, 55.7%

And if you look at the referendums held in Spain, three of the four took place on a weekday. On December 15, 1976, on the Bill for Political Reform, only 22.3% of the census abstained; and in that of March 12, 1986, on the permanence of Spain in NATO, 32.3%. Both on Wednesday.

The 4M will not be the first time that the Madrilenians go to vote during the week. It already happened once, in the elections to the Assembly of June 10, 1987 in which the socialist Joaquín Leguina was re-elected president. On that occasion, abstention was 30%. The next regional appointment took place four years later, on May 26, 1991, Sunday, and instead abstention rose eleven points, reaching 41.3%. They were the elections to the Assembly of Madrid with less participation.

To all the casuistry that can influence election day, we must also add the fact that these elections are held in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Community of Madrid registered on Monday an incidence rate of 371 new cases per 100,000 inhabitants in 14 days, the second region with the highest incidence in the country and that the Health "traffic light" considers a very high risk of contagion.

What's more, the members of the polling stations will not have PPE protective suits, What yes it happened last 14F in the autonomous elections of Catalonia. On this aspect, from the Civic Chamber they point out that "a recent survey by Science Po [el Instituto de Estudios Políticos de París] revealed that 57% of people who abstained in the March 2020 municipal elections in France cited the epidemic as one of the main concerns, while 25% identified it as the only reason not to vote. "

A survey conducted by Metroscopia for El País It showed last week - before the ban on publishing surveys came into force - that neither that 4M is a working day nor that it will be held during the pandemic seems that they will greatly influence participation. According to the survey, 74% of those interviewed said that the fact that it is a working day does not make it difficult for them "at all" to go to vote, and only 17% "somewhat", while 8% answered that "a lot" .

Regarding what the 4M could happen in the Community of Madrid, the analysts Rodríguez and Tirado admit that "of course [votar en día laborable] It is one of the factors that intervenes in the attitude of the electorate, as does the high political polarization, the great media exposure or the number of candidacies. "And they reflect:" When voting has a cost, individuals will consider how much they care about the outcome and the probability of whether your vote will be decisive for the outcome. All of this influences the final calculation that each voter makes: does my vote count? Worth the effort?".


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