The Meaning of Voting

DeVOTE is an ERC Starting Grant project running from January 2021 to December 2025. A research team led by Ass.-Prof. Carolina Plescia develops and applies a new interdisciplinary theoretical and methodological approach to study what ‘voting’ means for ordinary citizens. 

‘Meaning’, in this project, refers to both the importance of voting for citizens as well as what is meant by voting for citizens, which may encompass citizen definitions or understandings of voting and/or the motivations they have for voting or not.

The question what is the meaning of voting is of great importance today due to the growing distrust in the act of voting itself as well as in democratic institutions in many countries around the world.

Centuries-old philosophical debates as well as electoral research itself are based on the assumption that the act of voting is important for citizens and that citizens are fundamentally interested in elections and their outcomes. The DeVOTE project challenges these assumptions by systematically investigating the political, symbolic and psychological meanings of voting. What does voting mean to you? Is voting a civic duty? Is there a political alternative to voting?

Going Beyond Known Methods and Countries

Using a novel methodological approach, a new typology of meanings and motivations for voting will be developed. This will allow the introduction of new concepts and indicators for electoral research, the significance of which goes far beyond the present project and should make the act of voting as such easier to understand. In order to achieve this, the attitudes of citizens will first be studied by means of interviews, and subsequently combined with panel survey data and survey experiments.

This project does not only focus on the already well-researched countries in Western Europe, but also looks at the so-called autocracies in Europe and beyond (e.g. Hungary). This allows new insights into voting outside of democratic systems. Through the practice-oriented analysis of elections, the project offers an important source of information on the political significance that citizens attach to elections and the act of voting. The project results will therefore serve as an important basis for the (re)evaluation of elections and electoral systems, and will also make it possible to critically question previous interpretations of elections by the media and politicians.



Department of Government
University of Vienna
Kolingasse 14-16, 6th Floor
1090 Vienna, Austria


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This project has received funding from the European Research Council Grant Agreement no. 949247. Our website reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union is not liable for any use that may be made of the information contained therein.

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