Effects of the Internet on Participation: Study of a Public Policy Referendum in Brazil

This paper  by World Bank is about the effects of online voting on voting participation. It is a result of a research done in Brazil. The group of people that have been interviewed consist of the voters that have voted in the annual participatory budgeting vote in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul in Brazil. They have been asked if they still would have voted even if it was not done on the Internet. The results suggest that online voting had a great effect on the mobilization of voters. The research also suggests that sociological aspects of the voters, such as age, gender, income, education, and social media are important in determining their approach towards online voting. This way we can conclude whether sociological voting has effects on

The research also suggests that sociological properties of the voters, such as age, gender, income, education, and social media usage are important in determining their approach towards online voting. This way we can conclude whether sociological voting has effects on voting behaviour of the citizens.

Cost-Benefit Analysis

Anthony Downs (1957) has argued that voter are very rational, and they need to maximize the utility of the act of voting. He formulized this idea as following:

People vote if: (P*B) – C > 0

P: Probability of getting benefit

B: Benefit

C: Cost

This formulization is important for our project, for the reason that it helps explaining why voters tend to vote by the model of rational choice when it is in the context of online voting.

  • Downs, A. (1957). An economic theory of democracy. New York: Harper.

Voting Models

There are 3 models of voting outlined by Harrop and Miller in their book Elections and Voters: sociological theory, psychological theory (party identification) and rational choice (pragmatist voting).

The sociological model focuses on electoral behaviour that can be explained by social properties including social background, education, age, gender.

Psychological model or party identification is a concept which refers to an individuals sense of self, identification with another group without any questioning of the choice during the process.

Finally, Rational Choice is based on assumption that citizens act rationally and aim to maximise utilities by conducting cost-benefit assessments.

From a personal perspective, online voting could appeal to voters by the means of rational choice, as it saves the voter from the costs that traditional voting brings.


Measuring Democracy

According to Dahl (1971) there are two dimensions for classifying political regimes: contestation and inclusiveness. This substantive view of democracy classifies the regimes by the means of the outcomes that they produces and not just the institutions they contain. Higher the contestation and inclusiveness scores are, more democratic the regime is.

In this conceptualization, contestation is the extent to which citizens are free to compete for pressing desired policies and outcomes by organising themselves into blocs.

On the other hand, inclusion is determined by the diversity of the people participating in the political processes.


Dahl, Robert A.  (1971).  Polyarchy; participation and opposition,.  New Haven :  Yale University Press


Online Democracy, Is it Viable? Is it Desirable? Internet Voting and Normative Democratic Theory

In this paper, Hubertus Buchstein explores the policy making possibilities electronic voting brings. For doing this he focuses on online voting procedures.

While pointing out policy options, he mentions the concept of ‘multi-channel voting‘, that can be summarised as merging several types of voting systems. Multi-channel voting seems as a suitable option for transitioning towards online voting, which brings an insight for our project.

He uses democracy theory to analytically understand online voting. He delves into the distinctions of internet voting such its contexts, forms, and status. This analytical framework is helpful for seeing how online/internet voting could fit into the structure of democracy realistically. Indeed, Buchstein criticises how technology developing actors are trying to push online voting carelessly into political systems. According to him, they overlook the challenges both technological and societal aspects of online voting implement.

Furthermore, he discusses the pros and cons of the subject matter. Although this paper doesn’t bring a considerably positive look on online voting, it is still useful as a detailed and a well structured resource.