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Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes

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  • Shue, Kelly

    (Harvard U)

  • Luttmer, Erzo F. P.

Abstract

If voters are fully rational and have negligible cognition costs, ballot layout should not affect election outcomes. In this paper, we explore deviations from rational voting using quasi-random variation in candidate name placement on ballots from the 2003 California Recall Election. We find that the voteshares of minor candidates almost double when their names are adjacent to the names of major candidates on a ballot. Voteshare gains are largest in precincts with high percentages of Democratic, Hispanic, low-income, non-English speaking, poorly educated, or young voters. A major candidate that attracts a disproportionate share of voters from these types of precincts faces a systematic electoral disadvantage. If the Republican frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic frontrunner Cruz Bustamante had been in a tie, adjacency misvoting would have given Schwarzenegger an edge of 0.06% of the voteshare. This gain in voteshare exceeds the margins of victory in the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election and the 2004 Washington Gubernatorial Election. We explore which voting technology platforms and brands mitigate misvoting.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government in its series Working Paper Series with number rwp06-048.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:harjfk:rwp06-048

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  1. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2007. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Lifecycle," NBER Working Papers 13191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. John A. List & David Lucking-Reiley, 2000. "Bidding Behavior and Decision Costs in Field Experiments," Vanderbilt University Department of Economics Working Papers 0006, Vanderbilt University Department of Economics.
  3. James J. Choi & David Laibson & Brigitte C. Madrian & Andrew Metrick, 2004. "For Better or for Worse: Default Effects and 401(k) Savings Behavior," NBER Chapters, in: Perspectives on the Economics of Aging, pages 81-126 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Ho, Daniel E. & Imai, Kosuke, 2006. "Randomization Inference With Natural Experiments: An Analysis of Ballot Effects in the 2003 California Recall Election," Journal of the American Statistical Association, American Statistical Association, vol. 101, pages 888-900, September.
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  8. Thomas S. Dee, 2007. "Technology and Voter Intent: Evidence from the California Recall Election," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 674-683, November.
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  11. David Card & Enrico Moretti, 2007. "Does Voting Technology Affect Election Outcomes? Touch-screen Voting and the 2004 Presidential Election," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 89(4), pages 660-673, November.
  12. Annamaria Lusardi & Olivia S. Mitchell, 2005. "Financial Literacy and Planning: Implications for Retirement Wellbeing," CeRP Working Papers 46, Center for Research on Pensions and Welfare Policies, Turin (Italy).
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  15. Phillip Garner & Enrico Spolaore, 2005. "Why chads? Determinants of voting equipment use in the United States," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 123(3), pages 363-392, June.
  16. Brigitte C. Madrian & Dennis F. Shea, 2001. "THE POWER OF SUGGESTION: INERTIA IN 401(k) PARTICIPATION AND SAVINGS BEHAVIOR," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 116(4), pages 1149-1187, November.
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Cited by:
  1. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle and Implications for Regulation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 51-117.
  2. Esteve-Volart, Berta & Bagues, Manuel, 2012. "Are women pawns in the political game? Evidence from elections to the Spanish Senate," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 387-399.
  3. Nattavudh Powdthavee & Paul Dolan, Robert Metcalfe, 2008. "Electing Happiness: Does Happiness Effect Voting and do Elections Affect Happiness," Discussion Papers 08/30, Department of Economics, University of York.
  4. Xavier Gabaix & John C. Driscoll & David Laibson & Sumit Agarwal, 2008. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Lifecycle," 2008 Meeting Papers 322, Society for Economic Dynamics.
  5. Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia & Muelegger, Erich, 2007. "Using Approximations to Competitors’ Private Information: An Application of Cognitive Costs to Strategic Behavior," Working Paper Series rwp07-025, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
  6. Christian Bredemeier, 2014. "Imperfect information and the Meltzer-Richard hypothesis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 561-576, June.
  7. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 5.

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