Is Syriza defending pensioners because they turn out to vote?

The Greek government has been extremely reluctant to countenance changes to the pension system in its negotiations with its creditors.

When Ferdi Giugliano noted that defence of pensioners seemed to be politically transversal, it was quickly pointed out to him that there was an obvious reason why governments defend pensions: older people vote, and vote often.

This obvious answer seems wrong to be, at least for Greece and at least for the last election for which I have data.

Here’s a graph showing the smoothed rate of turnout as a function of age, in the May 2012 election.


As you can see, turnout peaks at age 45, before declining. This is a very different picture to most other countries.

The answer, in this case, is most likely a generation effect. After the rule of the colonels, the first democratic elections in Greece were in 1974. Assuming that the voting age has stayed the same since, the first generation to vote would have been born in 1956, and would be 56 at the time of the May 2012 election. Anyone older would have come of age, politically speaking, during a non-democratic regime. We know that voting is habit forming, and so this 55+ cohort would be less likely to vote than the 45-55 cohort.

I am, of course, happy to be proved wrong by those with data on the 2015 election — or indeed those who have a better handle on the CSES data I used (see below).

Technical: I used CSES data to create this graph. You can see the code I used to import the graph at github. Most of the lines of code deal with importing the CSES data, which — inexplicably — is released as a fixed-width file.

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