This paper addresses the understudied but crucial question of how past experiences with authoritarian elections (or the lack of them) have shaped habitual voting behaviour. We consider individual voter turnout in elections in democracies and autocracies between 1975 and 2015 across the entire world including Latin America, Africa, Europe, and Central & East Asia. Applying hierarchical age-period cohort analysis, we show that indeed the opportunity to participate in elections in the formative years matters. However, the impact of these early opportunities on long-term habitual voting is conditional on the “quality” of the elections experienced. In fact, the less truly competitive early electoral experiences are, the less likely a newly eligible voter is to become a habitual voter later in life. This research has important implications not only for understanding voter turnout in new democracies but also habitual voting in general.
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