In public debate, more and more people demand to lower the voting age to 16 years. At first, there are many good reasons to do so: Since people at this age usually still attend school and often live at home, they might have a higher chance to cast a vote 18 year olds. However, there are possibly a number of unintended consequences of which we know very little so far. To investigate these, we have started a research project that uses a quasi-experimental design to compare those who were just not allowed to vote to those who were at a 2017 regional election in Germany.
One of the interesting features of German federalism is that federal states differ in their respective voting ages. Most federal states adhere to 18 years but a number of them have lowered the voting age to 16 for regional elections. As a consequence, some citizens were allowed to vote in the regional election in Schleswig-Holstein but will not be allowed to vote in the general election in September 2017. Hence, these first-time voters can vote at a second-order election but not in the most important national election. As of now, we know very little about the effects of the granting and removal of electoral rights. It might stir frustration to those who voted but will not be able to do so several months later.
Sigrid Roßteutscher, Thorsten Fass, Arndt Leininger and I seek to better understand the effects of first-time voting in an innovative research project. We focus on two groups: Those born just too late to be allowed to vote and those who just were eligible. These two groups should be very similar and yet one groups is eligible while the other is not due to the date of birth. We compare their respective attitudes towards politics and trace their future behavior across several other elections that will take place in 2017 and 2018. The research is based on an online panel study, which will consist of several waves. In the first wave, more than 3,000 young citizens responded