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The Dark Side of the Vote: Biased Voters, Social Information, and Information Aggregation Through Majority Voting

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Author Info

  • Rebecca B. Morton

    ()
    (Department of Politics, NYU)

  • Marco Piovesan

    ()
    (Harvard Business School)

  • Jean-Robert Tyran

    ()
    (Department of Economics University of Vienna)

Abstract

We experimentally investigate information aggregation through majority voting when some voters are biased. In such situations, majority voting can have a "dark side", i.e. result in groups making choices inferior to those made by individuals acting alone. We develop a model to predict how two types of social information shape efficiency in the presence of biased voters and we test these predictions using a novel experimental design. In line with predictions, we find that information on the popularity of policy choices is beneficial when a minority of voters is biased, but harmful when a majority is biased. In theory, information on the success of policy choices elsewhere de-biases voters and alleviates the inefficiency. In the experiment, providing social information on success is ineffective. While voters with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to be de-biased by such information, most voters do not seem to interpret such information rationally.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Harvard Business School in its series Harvard Business School Working Papers with number 13-017.

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Length: 55 pages
Date of creation: Aug 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:13-017

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  1. Snowberg, Erik & Wolfers, Justin, 2010. "Explaining the Favorite-Longshot Bias: Is it Risk-Love or Misperceptions?," IZA Discussion Papers 4884, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  2. Blinder, Alan S & Morgan, John, 2005. "Are Two Heads Better than One? Monetary Policy by Committee," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 37(5), pages 789-811, October.
  3. S. Nageeb Ali & Jacob K. Goeree & Navin Kartik & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2008. "Information Aggregation in Standing and Ad Hoc Committees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 181-86, May.
  4. Thomas Markussen & Louis Putterman & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2011. "Self-Organization for Collective Action: An Experimental Study of Voting on Formal, Informal, and No Sanction Regimes," Working Papers 2011-4, Brown University, Department of Economics.
  5. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
  6. Tilman Slembeck & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2002. "Do Institutions Promote Rationality? An Experimental Study of the Three-Door Anomaly," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2002 2002-21, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  7. Rupert Sausgruber & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2010. "Are We Taxing Ourselves? How Deliberation and Experience Shape Voting on Taxes," Vienna Economics Papers 1010, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
  8. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  9. Blanco, Mariana & Engelmann, Dirk & Koch, Alexander K. & Normann, Hans-Theo, 2008. "Belief Elicitation in Experiments: Is there a Hedging Problem?," IZA Discussion Papers 3517, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
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