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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. Stephen Coate, 2004. "Pareto-Improving Campaign Finance Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 628-655, June.
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  10. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
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  12. Marco Battaglini & Rebecca B. Morton & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2008. "Information Aggregation and Strategic Abstention in Large Laboratory Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 194-200, May.
  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. David Dreyer Lassen, 2004. "The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," EPRU Working Paper Series 04-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
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