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The Dark Side of the Vote: Biased Voters, Social Information, and Information Aggregation Through Majority Voting

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  • Morton, Rebecca
  • Piovesan, Marco
  • Tyran, Jean-Robert

Abstract

We experimentally investigate information aggregation through majority voting when some voters are biased. In such situations, majority voting can have a “dark side”, i.e. result in groups making choices inferior to those made by individuals acting alone. We develop a model to predict how two types of social information shape efficiency in the presence of biased voters and we test these predictions using a novel experimental design. In line with predictions, we find that information on the popularity of policy choices is beneficial when a minority of voters is biased, but harmful when a majority is biased. In theory, information on the success of policy choices elsewhere de-biases voters and alleviates the inefficiency. In the experiment, providing social information on success is ineffective. While voters with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to be de-biased by such information, most voters do not seem to interpret such information rationally.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9098.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9098

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Keywords: biased voters; information aggregation; majority voting;

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  1. Sausgruber, Rupert & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2011. "Are we taxing ourselves?: How deliberation and experience shape voting on taxes," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(1-2), pages 164-176, February.
  2. Thomas Markussen & Louis Putterman & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2011. "Self-Organization for Collective Action: An Experimental Study of Voting on Formal, Informal, and No Sanction Regimes," Working Papers 2011-4, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  3. Erik Snowberg & Justin Wolfers, 2010. "Explaining the Favorite-Longshot Bias: Is it Risk-Love or Misperceptions?," CESifo Working Paper Series 3029, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Blanco, Mariana & Engelmann, Dirk & Koch, Alexander K. & Normann, Hans-Theo, 2008. "Belief Elicitation in Experiments: Is there a Hedging Problem?," IZA Discussion Papers 3517, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  5. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  7. Slembeck, Tilman & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2004. "Do institutions promote rationality?: An experimental study of the three-door anomaly," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 54(3), pages 337-350, July.
  8. Blinder, Alan S & Morgan, John, 2005. "Are Two Heads Better than One? Monetary Policy by Committee," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 37(5), pages 789-811, October.
  9. S. Nageeb Ali & Jacob K. Goeree & Navin Kartik & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2008. "Information Aggregation in Standing and Ad Hoc Committees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 181-86, May.
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