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Backward Induction in the Wild? Evidence from Sequential Voting in the US Senate

Author

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  • Jörg L. Spenkuch
  • B. Pablo Montagnes
  • Daniel B. Magleby

Abstract

In the US Senate, roll calls are held in alphabetical order. We document that senators early in the order are less likely to vote with the majority of their own party than those whose last name places them at the end of the alphabet. To speak to the mechanism behind this result, we develop a simple model of sequential voting, in which forward-looking senators rely on backward induction in order to free ride on their colleagues. Estimating our model structurally, we find that this form of strategic behavior is an important part of equilibrium play. We also consider, but ultimately dismiss, alternative explanations related to learning about common values and vote buying.

Suggested Citation

  • Jörg L. Spenkuch & B. Pablo Montagnes & Daniel B. Magleby, 2018. "Backward Induction in the Wild? Evidence from Sequential Voting in the US Senate," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 108(7), pages 1971-2013, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aecrev:v:108:y:2018:i:7:p:1971-2013
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/aer.20150993
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Thomas Romer & Howard Rosenthal, 1978. "Political resource allocation, controlled agendas, and the status quo," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 33(4), pages 27-43, December.
    2. Eddie Dekel & Matthew O. Jackson & Asher Wolinsky, 2008. "Vote Buying: General Elections," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 116(2), pages 351-380, April.
    3. repec:cup:apsrev:v:98:y:2004:i:02:p:355-370_00 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Rune Midjord & Tomás Rodríguez Barraquer & Justin Mattias Valasek, 2019. "Robust Information Aggregation Through Voting," CESifo Working Paper Series 7713, CESifo Group Munich.
    2. repec:eee:joepsy:v:69:y:2018:i:c:p:1-18 is not listed on IDEAS
    3. repec:eee:pubeco:v:169:y:2019:i:c:p:52-64 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Ginzburg, Boris & Guerra, José-Alberto, 2019. "When collective ignorance is bliss: Theory and experiment on voting for learning," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 169(C), pages 52-64.
    5. repec:eee:pubeco:v:165:y:2018:i:c:p:73-81 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D82 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Asymmetric and Private Information; Mechanism Design
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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