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Between Order and Disorder: A ‘Weak Law’ on Recent Electoral Behavior among Urban Voters?

Public Library of Science
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0039916
  • Research Article
  • Mathematics
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Complex Systems
  • Decision Theory
  • Physics
  • Interdisciplinary Physics
  • Physical Laws And Principles
  • Thermodynamics
  • Entropy
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • Social And Behavioral Sciences
  • Political Science
  • Democracy
  • Elections
  • Governments
  • Sociology
  • Social Policy
  • Social Research
  • Political Science


A new viewpoint on electoral involvement is proposed from the study of the statistics of the proportions of abstentionists, blank and null, and votes according to list of choices, in a large number of national elections in different countries. Considering 11 countries without compulsory voting (Austria, Canada, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Poland, Romania, Spain, and Switzerland), a stylized fact emerges for the most populated cities when one computes the entropy associated to the three ratios, which we call the entropy of civic involvement of the electorate. The distribution of this entropy (over all elections and countries) appears to be sharply peaked near a common value. This almost common value is typically shared since the 1970s by electorates of the most populated municipalities, and this despite the wide disparities between voting systems and types of elections. Performing different statistical analyses, we notably show that this stylized fact reveals particular correlations between the blank/null votes and abstentionists ratios. We suggest that the existence of this hidden regularity, which we propose to coin as a ‘weak law on recent electoral behavior among urban voters’, reveals an emerging collective behavioral norm characteristic of urban citizen voting behavior in modern democracies. Analyzing exceptions to the rule provides insights into the conditions under which this normative behavior can be expected to occur.

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