Too Immature to Have a Sense of Duty? Civic Duty in Youths Aged 16 and 17

David Johann, Sabrina J. Mayer, Kathrin Thomas

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An increasing number of studies investigated whether citizens under 18 are mature enough to vote. While this research addresses the level of political interest and knowledge in young citizens, and the quality of their voting decision, it does not explore their sense of civic duty to vote and its role for their participation in elections. This is surprising, as the sense of civic duty to vote is one of the main drivers of electoral turnout. Looking at the Austrian case, where voting is possible from the age of 16, we contribute to closing this gap. In particular, we investigate (1) the role of civic duty for the participation of young citizens in elections and (2) what constitutes differences in the sense of civic duty between 16- and 17-year-old citizens and those aged 18 and older. We show that the young citizens’ sense of duty to vote affects their decision to turn out, but that they display a lower sense of duty than those aged 21 and above. These differences seem to be connected to the young citizens’ level of political interest and knowledge, and their involvement in discussion networks. The results have important implications for academics, educators, and policymakers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)511-531
Number of pages22
JournalGerman Politics
Issue number4
Early online date17 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

We thank the anonymous reviewers for their constructive feedback that helped us shape our article. We would also like to thank Antoina Velicu for her comments and Brian Cooper for proofreading.

This work was supported by Austrian Science Fund [grant number [S10902-G11].]


  • civic duty to vote
  • voting at 16
  • electoral turnout
  • Austria


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