What are the effects of the economic crisis on electoral turnout? The literature predicts both mobilization as well as withdrawal‐effects, and the aggregate findings are indeed inconclusive. However, while there is no uniform trend, we see levels of electoral turnout decrease particularly in those countries that have been affected most strongly by the global economic recession. Existing resource- and incentive- based theories explain this decline exclusively with regard to the declining participation of the losers of the crisis, i.e. voters with low socio-‐economic resources and who suffer increased economic risk.
In this paper, we argue that such a view neglects a second driver of declining turnout: anticipation of government inefficacy. Where economic austerity constrains governments, highly educated citizens with the necessary political knowledge and sophistication anticipate the inefficacy of the future government and they factor this knowledge in when deciding about electoral participation. Therefore, the positive effects of education on turnout decline with increasing international and domestic austerity constraints. We provide cross-‐sectional evidence for this argument on the basis of hierarchical regression models, based on ESS round 5 (2010) and SILC survey data, as well as different measures of government constraint in 22 European countries during the economic crisis.