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How Do Voters Respond to Information? Evidence from a Randomized Campaign

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Author Info

  • Kendall, Chad

    ()
    (University of British Columbia, Vancouver)

  • Nannicini, Tommaso

    ()
    (Bocconi University)

  • Trebbi, Francesco

    ()
    (University of British Columbia, Vancouver)

Abstract

Rational voters update their subjective beliefs about candidates' attributes with the arrival of information, and subsequently base their votes on these beliefs. Information accrual is, however, endogenous to voters' types and difficult to identify in observational studies. In a large scale randomized trial conducted during an actual mayoral campaign in Italy, we expose different areas of the polity to controlled informational treatments about the valence and ideology of the incumbent through verifiable informative messages sent by the incumbent reelection campaign. Our treatments affect both actual vote shares at the precinct level and vote declarations at the individual level. We explicitly investigate the process of belief updating by comparing the elicited priors and posteriors of voters, finding heterogeneous responses to information. Based on the elicited beliefs, we are able to structurally assess the relative weights voters place upon a candidate's valence and ideology. We find that both valence and ideological messages affect the first and second moments of the belief distribution, but only campaigning on valence brings more votes to the incumbent. With respect to ideology, cross-learning occurs, as voters who receive information about the incumbent also update their beliefs about the opponent. Finally, we illustrate how to perform counterfactual campaigns based upon the structural model.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) in its series IZA Discussion Papers with number 7340.

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Length: 52 pages
Date of creation: Apr 2013
Date of revision:
Publication status: forthcoming in: American Economic Review, 2014
Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp7340

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Keywords: randomized controlled trial; voting; information; beliefs elicitation;

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References

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Cited by:
  1. Vincenzo Galasso & Tommaso Nannicini, 2013. "Men Vote in Mars, Women Vote in Venus:A Survey Experiment in the Field," Working Papers 487, IGIER (Innocenzo Gasparini Institute for Economic Research), Bocconi University.
  2. Srinivasan, Sunderasan, 2014. "Economic populism, partial deregulation of transport fuels and electoral outcomes in India," Energy Policy, Elsevier, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 465-475.

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