Advanced Search
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote

Contents:

Author Info

  • Casey B. Mulligan
  • Charles G. Hunter

Abstract

Empirical distributions of election margins are computing using data on U.S. Congressional and state legislator election returns. We present some of the first empirical calculations of the frequency of close elections, showing that one of every 100,000 votes cast in U.S. elections, and one of every 15,000 votes cast in state elections, 'mattered' in the sense that they were cast for a candidate that officially tied or won by one vote. Very close elections are more rare than the independent binomial model predicts. The evidence also suggests that recounts, and other margin-specific election procedures, are quite relevant determinants of the frequency of a pivotal vote. Although moderately close elections (winning margin of less than ten percentage points) are more common than landslides, the distribution of moderately close U.S. election margins is approximately uniform. The distribution of state legislature election margins is clearly monotonic, with closer margins more likely, except for very close and very lopsided elections. We find an inverse relationship between election size and the frequency of one vote margins in both data sets over a wide range of election sizes, with the exception of the smallest U.S. elections for which the frequency increases with election size.

Download Info

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.
File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w8590.pdf
Download Restriction: no

Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 8590.

as in new window
Length:
Date of creation: Nov 2001
Date of revision:
Publication status: published as Mulligan, Casey B and Charles G. Hunter. "The Empirical Frequency Of A Pivotal Vote," Public Choice, 2003, v116(1-2,Jul), 31-54.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8590

Note: EFG PE
Contact details of provider:
Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.
Phone: 617-868-3900
Email:
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC

Related research

Keywords:

Other versions of this item:

Find related papers by JEL classification:

This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

References

References listed on IDEAS
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
as in new window
  1. Glaeser, Edward L & Sacerdote, Bruce & Scheinkman, Jose A, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-48, May.
  2. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
  3. Chamberlain, Gary & Rothschild, Michael, 1981. "A note on the probability of casting a decisive vote," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 152-162, August.
  4. Howard Margolis, 1977. "Probability of a tie election," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 135-138, September.
  5. Fischer, A J, 1999. " The Probability of Being Decisive," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 101(3-4), pages 267-83, December.
Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

Citations

Citations are extracted by the CitEc Project, subscribe to its RSS feed for this item.
as in new window

Cited by:
  1. Eric Crampton & Andrew Farrant, 2004. "Expressive and Instrumental Voting: The Scylla and Charybdis of Constitutional Political Economy," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 77-88, 03.
  2. Jean-Robert Tyran & Rupert Sausgruber, 2002. "A Little Fairness may Induce a Lot of Redistribution in Democracy," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2002 2002-30, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  3. Gani Aldashev, 2013. "Voter Turnout and Political Rents," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 294, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
  4. Darren Grant & Michael Toma, 2007. "Elemental Tests of the Traditional Rational Voting Model," Working Papers 0709, Sam Houston State University, Department of Economics and International Business.
  5. John Maloney & Andrew Pickering, 2008. "Ideology, Competence and Luck: What determines general election results?," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 08/607, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
  6. Ozgur Evren, 2009. "Altruism, Turnout and Strategic Voting Behavior," Levine's Working Paper Archive 814577000000000309, David K. Levine.
  7. Andrew Leigh, 2004. "Does the World Economy Swing National Elections?," CEPR Discussion Papers 485, Centre for Economic Policy Research, Research School of Economics, Australian National University.
  8. Andrew Gelman & Nate Silver & Aaron Edlin, 2009. "What is the probability your vote will make a difference?," NBER Working Papers 15220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  9. Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others," NBER Working Papers 13562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  10. Janne Tukiainen & Teemu Lyytikäinen, 2013. "Voters are rational," Working Papers 50, Government Institute for Economic Research Finland (VATT).

Lists

This item is not listed on Wikipedia, on a reading list or among the top items on IDEAS.

Statistics

Access and download statistics

Corrections

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8590. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ().

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.