In Italy, voter abstention has been constantly increasing since 1979 (Russo, 2011), and the most recent Italian Parliamentary Elections (2008) saw the highest percentage of non-voters in Italian history (19.5%). Even if this might seem quite a low abstention rate in comparison with France (42.7% in 2012 – second round legislative), Spain (28% in 2011) or the UK (34.9% in 2010), it is quite high for Italy. From the beginning of the Italian Republican era (1946) until 1979, the abstention rate has remained at around 6-7%, and we can label this as inevitable abstention: there will always be a proportion of the voting population who cannot vote. A portion of voters, according to some the 20% of all who abstain (Mannehimer and Sani 2001), are prevent from voting by circumstances beyond one’s control (invalid, sick, very old people, people resident elsewhere etc). In fact, even in countries where voting is mandatory (i.e. Belgium) it is possible to observe a small proportion (under 10%) of abstainers. This no-vote rate is unavoidable, and we can assume that the main reason for not voting is not down to choice. Because of the increasing of abstention by choice (Raniolo 2002, Tuorto 2006, Tuorto e Colloca 2010) very little attention was given to the forced abstention. It might be the case that with the ageing of population these form of abstention is increasing as well. In this paper we want to analyse the electoral abstention phenomenon in Italy taking into account the age structure of the Italian population. The aim of our proposal is trying to understand how the rapid ageing of the Italian population can contribute to explain the overall quota of abstention. In fact in Italy we can observe two complementary dynamics: in the last twenty years the young age classes are decreasing whilst the elderly classes (over 80 years) are increasingly composed by women. Moreover, there is a large variability among areas with regard to these demographical aspects. We will test the hypothesis that the abstention (which is here intended in a strict sense: only voters not going to the ballots, excluding the non-valid vote) tends to be higher as the population of a given areas is older. We will test this hypothesis for five Parliamentary elections (1992-2008) by using ecological data at the municipal level and by employing as explanatory variable the demographic structure (age and gender). The results will be validated by using the electoral records regarding the percentage of abstention by age and gender of three municipalities (one for each of the main geographical areas: North, Centre and South). References: Mannehimer R., Sani G. (2001), La conquista degli astenuti, il Mulino, Bologna. Raniolo F. (2002), La partecipazione politica, Il Mulino, Bologna. Russo L. (2011), Tuorto D.(2006), Apatia o Protesta? L'Astensionismo Elettorale in Italia, Il Mulino, Bologna. Tuorto D., Colloca P.(2010), Differenziali di partecipazione tra elezioni ed effetto traino, in: Governi locali e regionali in Europa fra sistemi elettorali e scelte di voto, F.lli Scaravaglio & C., Torino, pp. 525 – 539. Tuorto D.(2010), Gli orientamenti politici di genitori e figli, Il Mulino, 5, pp. 878 - 881 Tuorto, P. Colloca, (2010), Il significato politico dell’astensionismo intermittente in Italia: una smobilitazione punitiva?, Quaderni dell'Osservatorio Elettorale, 64, pp. 45 – 66.
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