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Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes

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  • Kelly Shue
  • Erzo F. P. Luttmer

Abstract

If voters are fully rational and have negligible cognition costs, ballot layout should not affect election outcomes. In this paper, we explore deviations from rational voting using quasi-random variation in candidate name placement on ballots from the 2003 California Recall Election. We find that the voteshares of minor candidates almost double when their names are adjacent to the names of major candidates on a ballot. Voteshare gains are largest in precincts with high percentages of Democratic, Hispanic, low-income, non-English speaking, poorly educated, or young voters. A major candidate that attracts a disproportionate share of voters from these types of precincts faces a systematic electoral disadvantage. If the Republican frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic frontrunner Cruz Bustamante had been in a tie, adjacency misvoting would have given Schwarzenegger an edge of 0.06% of the voteshare. This gain in voteshare exceeds the margins of victory in the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election and the 2004 Washington Gubernatorial Election. We explore which voting technology platforms and brands mitigate misvoting.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 12709.

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Date of creation: Nov 2006
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Publication status: published as Kelly Shue & Erzo F. P. Luttmer, 2009. "Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 1(1), pages 229-57, February.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:12709

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  1. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2007. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Lifecycle," NBER Working Papers 13191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Sumit Agarwal & John C Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2007. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Lifecycle," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000001752, UCLA Department of Economics.
  2. Nattavudh Powdthavee & Paul Dolan, Robert Metcalfe, 2008. "Electing Happiness: Does Happiness Effect Voting and do Elections Affect Happiness," Discussion Papers, Department of Economics, University of York 08/30, Department of Economics, University of York.
  3. Stefano DellaVigna, 2009. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, American Economic Association, vol. 47(2), pages 315-72, June.
  4. Berta Esteve-Volart & Manuel F. Bagües, 2009. "Are Women Pawns in the Political Game? Evidence from Elections to the Spanish Senate," Working Papers 2009-30, FEDEA.
  5. Christian Bredemeier, 2010. "Imperfect Information and the Meltzer-Richard Hypothesis," Ruhr Economic Papers, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen 0213, Rheinisch-Westfälisches Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung, Ruhr-Universität Bochum, Universität Dortmund, Universität Duisburg-Essen.
  6. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle and Implications for Regulation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 51-117.
  7. Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia & Muelegger, Erich, 2007. "Using Approximations to Competitors’ Private Information: An Application of Cognitive Costs to Strategic Behavior," Working Paper Series, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government rwp07-025, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.

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