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Voting may be habit forming: Evidence from a randomized field experiment

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  • Alan Gerber
  • Donald Green
  • Ron Shachar
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    Abstract

    Habit is a frequently mentioned but understudied cause of political action. This article provides the first direct test of the hypothesis that casting a ballot in one election increases one's propensity to go to the polls in the future. A field experiment involving 25,200 registered voters was conducted prior to the November general election of 1998. Subjects were randomly assigned to treatment conditions in which they were urged to vote through direct mail or face-to-face canvassing. Compared to a control group that received no contact, the treatment groups were significantly more likely to vote in 1998. The treatment groups were also significantly more likely to vote in local elections held in November of 1999. After deriving a statistical estimator to isolate the effect of habit, we find that, ceteris paribus, voting in one election substantially increases the likelihood of voting in the future. Indeed, the influence of past voting exceeds the effects of age and education reported in previous studies.

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    File URL: http://karlan.yale.edu/fieldexperiments/papers/00251.pdf
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    Bibliographic Info

    Paper provided by The Field Experiments Website in its series Natural Field Experiments with number 00251.

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    Date of creation: 2003
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    Handle: RePEc:feb:natura:00251

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    Web page: http://www.fieldexperiments.com

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    1. Rivers, Douglas & Vuong, Quang H., 1988. "Limited information estimators and exogeneity tests for simultaneous probit models," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 347-366, November.
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    Cited by:
    1. Kevin Denny & Orla Doyle, 2006. "Does Voting History Matter? Analysing Persistence in Turnout," Working Papers 200607, School Of Economics, University College Dublin.
    2. Mukand, Prof Sharun & Kaplan, Dr Ethan, 2011. "Persistence of Political Partisanship: Evidence from 9/11," CAGE Online Working Paper Series 43, Competitive Advantage in the Global Economy (CAGE).
    3. Ebonya Washington, 2006. "How Black Candidates Affect Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 11915, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Thomas Fujiwara & Kyle C. Meng & Tom Vogl, 2013. "Estimating Habit Formation in Voting," NBER Working Papers 19721, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. Gianmarco León, 2013. "Turnout, Political Preferences and Information: Experimental Evidence from Peru," Working Papers 691, Barcelona Graduate School of Economics.
    6. Madestam, Andreas & Yanagizawa-Drott, David, 2012. "Shaping of the Nation: The Effect of Fourth of July on Political Preferences and Behavior in the United States," Working Paper Series rwp12-034, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    7. Chad Kendall & Tommaso Nannicini & Francesco Trebbi, 2013. "How Do Voters Respond to Information? Evidence from a Randomized Campaign," Working Papers 486, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
    8. Campbell, Douglas L., 2010. "History, culture, and trade: a dynamic gravity approach," MPRA Paper 24014, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    9. John Duffy & Margit Tavits, 2006. "Beliefs and Voting Decisions: A Test of the Pivotal Voter Model," Working Papers 273, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised May 2007.
    10. Vincenzo Galasso & Tommaso Nannicini, 2013. "Men Vote in Mars, Women Vote in Venus: A Survey Experiment in the Field," CESifo Working Paper Series 4328, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Martorana, Marco Ferdinando, 2011. "Voting Behaviour in a dynamic perspective: a survey," MPRA Paper 37592, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Alan S. Gerber & Gregory A. Huber & David Doherty & Conor M. Dowling & Seth J. Hill, 2011. "Do Perceptions of Ballot Secrecy Influence Turnout? Results from a Field Experiment," NBER Working Papers 17673, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    13. Gine, Xavier & Mansuri, Ghazala, 2011. "Together we will : experimental evidence on female voting behavior in Pakistan," Policy Research Working Paper Series 5692, The World Bank.
    14. Yosef Bhatti & Kasper Hansen, 2013. "Public employees lining up at the polls—the conditional effect of living and working in the same municipality," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 156(3), pages 611-629, September.
    15. Mori, Yuko & Kurosaki, Takashi, 2013. "Does Political Reservation Affect Voting Behavior? Empirical Evidence from India," CEI Working Paper Series 2012-09, Center for Economic Institutions, Institute of Economic Research, Hitotsubashi University.

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