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Does Deceptive Advertising Reduce Political Participation? Theory and Evidence

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  • Daniel Houser

    ()
    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Sandra Ludwig

    ()
    (LMU Munich)

  • Thomas Stratmann

    ()
    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

Abstract

We examine the effect of deceptive advertising on voting decisions in elections. We model two-candidate elections in which 1) voters are uncertain about candidates' attributes; and 2) candidates can inform voters of their attributes by sending advertisements. We compare political campaigns with truthful advertising to campaigns in which there is a small chance of deceptive advertising. Our theoretical model predicts that informed voters should act on the information contained in the advertisement. Thus, even in deceptive campaigns, informed voters should either vote for the candidate from whom they received an advertisement or abstain from voting; they should never vote for the opposing candidate. We test our model in laboratory elections, and, as predicted, find higher participation among informed voters in elections that allow only for truthful advertisement than in elections that permit deceptive advertising. Contrary to our theoretical predictions, we find substantial differences in voting behavior between truthful and deceptive campaigns. When faced with a small probability of deception, informed voters in deceptive campaigns vote for the candidate who did not send an advertisement, thereby making sub-optimal voting choices. Even when there is only a small chance that an advertisement is deceptive, voters are more likely to elect the candidate who generates less welfare.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1011.

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Length: 53 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2009
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1011

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  1. Battaglini, Marco & Morton, Rebecca & Palfrey, Thomas, 2005. "The Swing Voter's Curse in the Laboratory," Papers 03-13-2006, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  2. Timothy J. Fedderson & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1996. "Abstention in Elections with Asymmetric Information and Diverse Preferences," Discussion Papers 1195, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
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  13. Luca Corazzini & Sebastian Kube & Michel André Maréchal & Antonio Nicolò, 2009. "Elections and deceptions: an experimental study on the behavioral effects of democracy," IEW - Working Papers 421, Institute for Empirical Research in Economics - University of Zurich, revised Aug 2013.
  14. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
  15. Thomas Stratmann, 2005. "Some talk: Money in politics. A (partial) review of the literature," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 124(1), pages 135-156, July.
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