political institutions, as opponents have argued, and therefore there is little indication that citizens
under 18 are less motivated to participate effectively in politics.
Quality of vote choice was measured by comparing citizens’ own political opinions with
the agendas of the candidates that they cast their votes for. While the study did find that the mean
distance in quality of vote among the younger voters is slightly higher than that of the older voters,
the difference is minimal. The study found no convincing evidence that the voting decisions of
voters under the age of 18 are in any way of lesser quality or less congruent than that of older
groups of voters.
B. First-time voter boost and turnout rate
A second study of Austrian voting, published in 2014, utilized official data to address two
key questions. These questions surrounded the theory of the first-time voter boost, the idea that
first-time voters, usually 18- to 19-year-olds, vote more often than their slightly older counterparts,
20- to 21-year-olds, a group that exhibits a markedly low turnout rate. The two questions addressed
in the study were: (1) whether the first-time voter boost can be observed for 16- and 17-year-olds,
and (2) how the turnout rate of 16- and 17-year-olds compares to that of other first-time voters.
The study found that the turnout rate of 16- and 17-year-olds was not significantly lower
than the overall turnout rate of voters up to 25 years of age. Rather, the study observed that, as age
increases from 16 to 20, voter turnout decreases at a nearly linear proportion. Therefore, the first-time voting boost was found to be progressively less for older first-time voters than for 16- and
Looking at the overall turnout rate of 16- and 17-year-olds as compared to that of first-time
18 to 20-year-olds, the younger voters turned out at significantly and substantially higher rates –
almost ten percent. Sixteen- and 17-year-old Austrian voters are an exception to the general trend
that turnout of young voters is far lower than in the overall electorate.
There seems to be little support for arguments in opposition to children’s suffrage. Based
on the Austrian studies assessed above, 16-year-olds are just as interested and motivated to
participate in politics as their slightly older counterparts. The results of the studies discussed above
contradict predictions that assume low electoral participation of 16- and 17-year-olds. Although
too soon to tell, in the coming years, academics will be able to answer yet another question about
Austria’s young voters: whether starting to vote at age 16 facilitates a long-term voting habit. In
the meantime, Malta is helping to pave the way for expanded children’s rights, specifically, a right
that is coming to light as being worthy and deserved.