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Compulsory versus Voluntary Voting: An Experimental Study

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  • John Duffy
  • Sourav Bhattacharya
  • Sun-Tak Kim

Abstract

We report on an experiment comparing compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in a voting game with common preferences. Rational choice theory predicts sharp differences in voter behavior between these two institutions. If voting is compulsory, then voters may find it rational to vote insincerely, i.e., against their private information. If voting is voluntary so that abstention is allowed, then sincere voting in accordance with a voter's private information is always rational while participation may become strategic. We find strong support for these theoretical predictions in our experimental data. Moreover, voters adapt their decisions to the voting institution in place in such a way as to make the group decision accuracy differences between the two voting institutions negligible. The latter finding may serve to rationalize the co-existence of compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in nature.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 492.

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Date of creation: May 2012
Date of revision: Aug 2013
Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:492

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Keywords: Voting Behavior; Voting Mechanisms; Comulsory Voting; Condorcet Jury Model; Information Aggregation; Laboratory Experiments;

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  1. Morton, Rebecca B. & Tyran, Jean-Robert, 2011. "Let the experts decide? Asymmetric information, abstention, and coordination in standing committees," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 72(2), pages 485-509, June.
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  7. John Duffy & Andreas Blume & April Franco, 2007. "Decentralized Organizational Learning: An Experimental Investigation," Working Papers 310, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised Jul 2008.
  8. Cason, Timothy N. & Mui, Vai-Lam, 2005. "Uncertainty and resistance to reform in laboratory participation games," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 708-737, September.
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  15. Tilman Borgers, 2004. "Costly Voting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(1), pages 57-66, March.
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  17. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
  18. McKelvey, Richard D. & Palfrey, Thomas R., 2008. "Quantal Response Equilibria: A Brief Synopsis," Handbook of Experimental Economics Results, Elsevier.
  19. Nicola Persico, 2004. "Committee Design with Endogenous Information," Review of Economic Studies, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 71(1), pages 165-191, 01.
  20. Nicola Persico, 2004. "Committee Design with Endogenous Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(1), pages 165-191.
  21. Dino Gerardi & Margaret A. McConnell & Julian Romero & Leeat Yariv, 2009. "Get Out the (Costly) Vote: Institutional Design for Greater Participation," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 121, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
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  23. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. " Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-46, March.
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