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Gundelach, Birte and Fatke, Matthias (2020): Decentralisation and political inequality: a comparative analysis of unequal turnout in European regions. In: Comparative European Politics, Vol. 18, No. 4: pp. 510-531

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This article analyses whether and how the persistent positive relationship between socioeconomic status and political participation can be moderated by institutional design. Hopes to boost turnout rates of socially disadvantaged citizens often rest upon the introduction of participatory institutions. Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Alexis de Tocqueville and John Stuart Mill had already asserted claims about the educative effect of close political institutions at the local level, which presumably result in a decrease in social inequality. More recently, campaigns for greater regional authority throughout Europe have represented a demand for opportunities to participate in decentralised, accessible polities. Based on data from 259 regions in Europe, we investigate whether political decentralisation and increased opportunities to participate are appropriate means of mitigating political inequality. The results not only fail to meet expectations but show that decentralisation in fact reinforces unequal voter turnout. These findings are particularly relevant for combatting inequality and indicating the potential side effects of decentralisation campaigns.

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