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Do Citizens Vote Sincerely (If They Vote at All)? Theory and Evidence from U. S. National Elections

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  • Arianna Degan

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Quebec at Montreal)

  • Antonio Merlo

    ()
    (Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania)

Abstract

Understanding citizens’ electoral behavior (e.g., selective abstention and split ticket voting), represents a fundamental step in the analysis of democratic institutions. In this paper, we assess the extent to which sincere voting can explain observed patterns of participation and voting in U.S. national elections. We propose a unified model of turnout and voting in presidential and congressional elections with heterogeneous voters. We estimate the model using individual level data for eight presidential election years (1972-2000). Our main findings can be summarized as follows. First, a non-negligible fraction of the American electorate does not vote sincerely, and only a relatively small fraction of observed split-ticket voting can be explained by sincere voting. Second, there is a systematic, positive relationship between information and turnout. Third, the American electorate has become relatively more polarized over time.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania in its series PIER Working Paper Archive with number 04-014.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: 15 Mar 2004
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pen:papers:04-014

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Keywords: Elections; turnout; selective abstention; split-ticket voting;

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  1. Barry Nalebuff & Roni Shachar, 1997. "Follow The Leader: Theory And Evidence On Political Participation," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm57, Yale School of Management.
  2. Chari, V V & Jones, Larry E & Marimon, Ramon, 1997. "The Economics of Split-Ticket Voting in Representative Democracies," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 87(5), pages 957-76, December.
  3. Alesina, Alberto & Rosenthal, Howard, 1996. "A Theory of Divided Government," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 64(6), pages 1311-41, November.
  4. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
  5. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
  6. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
  7. Daniel Diermeier & Michael Keane & Antonio Merlo, 2002. "A Political Economy Model of Congressional Careers," PIER Working Paper Archive 04-037, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Sep 2004.
  8. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. " Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-46, March.
  9. Stephen Hansen & Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1987. "The Downsian model of electoral participation: Formal theory and empirical analysis of the constituency size effect," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(1), pages 15-33, January.
  10. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1993. " The Downsian Voter Meets the Ecological Fallacy," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 77(4), pages 855-78, December.
  11. James J. Heckman & James M. Snyder, Jr., 1996. "Linear Probability Models of the Demand for Attributes with an Empirical Application to Estimating the Preferences of Legislators," NBER Working Papers 5785, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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Cited by:
  1. Stephen Coate & Brian Knight, 2005. "Socially Optimal Districting," NBER Working Papers 11462, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Antonio Merlo, 2005. "Whither Political Economy? Theories, Facts and Issues," PIER Working Paper Archive 05-033, Penn Institute for Economic Research, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania, revised 01 Dec 2005.

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