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On Public Opinion Polls and Voters' Turnout

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  • Esteban F. Klory
  • Eyal Winter

Abstract

This paper studies the effects that the revelation of information on the electorate's preferences has on voters' turnout decisions. The experimental data show that closeness in the division of preferences induces a significant increase in turnout. Moreover, for closely divided electorates (and only for these electorates) the provision of information significantly raises the participation of subjects supporting the slightly larger team relative to the smaller team. This behaviour contradicts the qualitative predictions of the unique quasi-symmetric Nash equilibrium of the theoretical model. We show that the heterogeneous effect of information on the participation of subjects in different teams is driven by the subjects' (incorrect) beliefs of casting a pivotal vote. Simply put, subjects overestimate the probability of casting a pivotal vote when they belong to the team with a slight majority, and choose the strategy that maximizes their utility based on their inflated probability assessment. Empirical evidence on gubernatorial elections in the U.S. between 1990 and 2005 is consistent with our main experimental result. Namely, we observe that the difference in the actual vote tally between the party leading according to the polls and the other party is larger than the one predicted by the polls only in closely divided electorates. We provide a behavioural model that explains the main findings of our experimental and empirical analyses.

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Paper provided by David K. Levine in its series Levine's Working Paper Archive with number 321307000000000451.

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Date of creation: 07 Oct 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:321307000000000451

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References

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  1. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1993. " The Downsian Voter Meets the Ecological Fallacy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 77(4), pages 855-78, December.
  2. Vai-Lam Mui & Timothy N. Cason, 2004. "Uncertainty and Resistance to Reform in Laboratory Participation Games," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 1, Econometric Society.
  3. Timothy J. Feddersen, 2004. "Rational Choice Theory and the Paradox of Not Voting," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 99-112, Winter.
  4. Vincent P. Crawford & Nagore Iriberri, 2004. "Fatal Attraction: Focality, Naivete, and Sophistication in Experimental Hide-and-Seek Games," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000316, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. Levine, David & Palfrey, Thomas, 2005. "A Paradox of Voter Participation? A Laboratory Study," Papers 09-19-2005a, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  6. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
  7. Battaglini, Marco & Morton, Rebecca & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2006. "Efficiency, equity, and timing of voting mechanisms," Working Papers 1262, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  8. Timothy Feddersen & Alvaro Sandroni, 2006. "A Theory of Participation in Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1271-1282, September.
  9. David K Levine & Thomas R Palfrey, 2005. "The Paradox of Voter Participation: A Laboratory Study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000968, David K. Levine.
  10. Tilman Börgers, 2001. "Costly Voting," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 625018000000000232, www.najecon.org.
  11. Steven Callander, 2007. "Bandwagons and Momentum in Sequential Voting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 653-684.
  12. Rapoport, Amnon & Seale, Darryl A. & Winter, Eyal, 2002. "Coordination and Learning Behavior in Large Groups with Asymmetric Players," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 111-136, April.
  13. Barry Nalebuff & Ron Shachar, 1999. "Follow the Leader: Theory and Evidence on Political Participation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 525-547, June.
  14. Taylor, Curtis & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2005. "Public Information and Electoral Bias," Working Papers 05-11, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  15. Guillaume R. Frechette & John H. Kagel & Steven Lehrer, 2000. "Bargaining in Legislatures: An Experimental Investigation of Open versus Closed Amendment Rules," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1515, Econometric Society.
  16. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
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Cited by:
  1. Jens Großer & Arthur Schram, 2007. "Public Opinion Polls, Voter Turnout, and Welfare: An Experimental Study," Labsi Experimental Economics Laboratory University of Siena 014, University of Siena.
  2. Taylor, Curtis R. & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2010. "Public information and electoral bias," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 353-375, January.
  3. Javier Gardeazabal, 2010. "Vote Shares in Spanish General Elections as a Fractional Response to the Economy and Conflict," Economics of Security Working Paper Series 33, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
  4. Esteban Klor & Eyal Winter, 2007. "The welfare effects of public opinion polls," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 35(3), pages 379-394, February.

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