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Voters are rational

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  • Janne Tukiainen
  • Teemu Lyytikäinen

Abstract

We test whether voters are rational in the sense that their decision to vote depends on its expected impact on the election outcomes. By using exogenous variation in pivotal probabilities that arise at population thresholds determining council sizes in Finnish municipal elections, we provide the first causal evidence on this rational voting hypothesis. We find statistically significant, economically relevant and robust effects of crossing the threshold on turnout. Furthermore, we use a novel instrumental variables design to show that the changes in the pivotal probabilities rather than simultaneous changes in available candidates drive the results. Thus, the rational voter exists.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT) in its series Working Papers with number 50.

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Date of creation: 27 Sep 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fer:wpaper:50

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Keywords: Local government elections; Rational voting hypothesis; Regression discontinuity design;

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  1. S. Nageeb Ali & Charles Lin, 2013. "Why People Vote: Ethical Motives and Social Incentives," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 73-98, May.
  2. Coate, Stephen & Conlin, Michael & Moro, Andrea, 2008. "The performance of pivotal-voter models in small-scale elections: Evidence from Texas liquor referenda," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 582-596, April.
  3. David S. Lee & Thomas Lemieux, 2010. "Regression Discontinuity Designs in Economics," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 48(2), pages 281-355, June.
  4. Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others," NBER Working Papers 13562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  5. Jørgen Juel Andersen & Jon H. Fiva & Gisle James Natvik, 2013. "Voting When the Stakes Are High," Working Papers 0017, Centre for Applied Macro- and Petroleum economics (CAMP), BI Norwegian Business School.
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  7. John C. Harsanyi, 1955. "Cardinal Welfare, Individualistic Ethics, and Interpersonal Comparisons of Utility," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 63, pages 309.
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  10. Fujiwara, Thomas, 2011. "A Regression Discontinuity Test of Strategic Voting and Duverger's Law," International Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 6(3–4), pages 197-233, November.
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  13. Alan Gerber & Donald Green & Matthew Green, 2003. "Partisan mail and voter turnout: Results from randomized field experiments," Natural Field Experiments 00250, The Field Experiments Website.
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  15. Per Pettersson-Lidbom, 2004. "Does the Size of the Legislature Affect the Size of Government? Evidence from Two Natural Experiments," Discussion Papers 350, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).
  16. Levitt, Steven D, 1994. "Using Repeat Challengers to Estimate the Effect of Campaign Spending on Election Outcomes in the U.S. House," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 102(4), pages 777-98, August.
  17. Jon H. Fiva & Olle Folke, 2011. "Mechanical and Psychological Effects of Electoral Reform," CESifo Working Paper Series 3505, CESifo Group Munich.
  18. McCrary, Justin, 2008. "Manipulation of the running variable in the regression discontinuity design: A density test," Journal of Econometrics, Elsevier, vol. 142(2), pages 698-714, February.
  19. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. " Explaining Voter Turnout Patterns: An Information Theory," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 84(1-2), pages 91-117, July.
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