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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 have negligible cognition costs, ballot layout should not affect election outcomes. 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 minor candidates' vote shares almost double when their names are adjacent to the names of major candidates. All else equal, vote share gains are larger in precincts with higher percentages of poorly educated, poor, or third-party voters. A major candidate that disproportionally attracts voters from such precincts faces an electoral disadvantage. We also explore which voting technology platforms and brands mitigate misvoting. (JEL D72)

Suggested Citation

  • 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 229-257, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:1:y:2009:i:1:p:229-57
    Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.1.1.229
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Nattavudh Powdthavee & Paul Dolan, Robert Metcalfe, 2008. "Electing Happiness: Does Happiness Effect Voting and do Elections Affect Happiness," Discussion Papers 08/30, Department of Economics, University of York.
    2. 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.
    3. repec:cup:pscirm:v:7:y:2019:i:02:p:289-310_00 is not listed on IDEAS
    4. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David I. Laibson, 2007. "The age of reason: financial decisions over the lifecycle," Working Paper Series WP-07-05, Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.
    5. Philipp Lergetporer & Guido Schwerdt & Katharina Werner & Ludger Woessmann, 2016. "Information and Preferences for Public Spending: Evidence from Representative Survey Experiments," Working Paper Series of the Department of Economics, University of Konstanz 2016-07, Department of Economics, University of Konstanz.
    6. Christian Bredemeier, 2014. "Imperfect information and the Meltzer-Richard hypothesis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 561-576, June.
    7. Aldashev, Gani & Mastrobuoni, Giovanni, 2019. "Invalid Ballots and Electoral Competition," Political Science Research and Methods, Cambridge University Press, vol. 7(02), pages 289-310, April.
    8. Giorgio Bellettini & Carlotta Berti Ceroni & Chiara Monfardini, 2014. "Socio-Economic Heterogeneity and Electoral Turnout: An Aggregate Analysis with Precinct-Level Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 4999, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Jacob Goldin & Tatiana Homonoff, 2011. "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: Cigarette Tax Salience and Regressivity," Working Papers 561a, Princeton University, Department of Economics, Industrial Relations Section..
    10. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
    11. Esteve-Volart, Berta & Bagues, Manuel, 2012. "Are women pawns in the political game? Evidence from elections to the Spanish Senate," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 387-399.
    12. Lin, C.Y. Cynthia & Muehlegger, Erich J., 2009. "Heuristic Strategies, Firm Behavior and Industry Information," Working Papers 225898, University of California, Davis, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.
    13. Jean-Benoît Eymeoud & Paul Vertier, 2018. "Gender Biases: Evidence from a Natural Experiment in French Local Elections," Sciences Po publications 78, Sciences Po.
    14. Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia & Muelegger, Erich, 2007. "Using Approximations to Competitors’ Private Information: An Application of Cognitive Costs to Strategic Behavior," Working Paper Series rwp07-025, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    15. repec:eee:jeborg:v:146:y:2018:i:c:p:43-54 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Amy King & Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Are Ballot Order Effects Heterogeneous?," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(1), pages 71-87, March.
    17. Jean-Benoît Eymeoud, 2018. "Housing and Discrimination in Economics: an Empirical Approach using Big Data and Natural Experiments," Sciences Po publications info:hdl:2441/3f39ik5s3j8, Sciences Po.
    18. Civelli, Andrea & Deck, Cary & LeBlanc, Justin D. & Tutino, Antonella, 2018. "Rationally Inattentive Consumer: An Experiment," Working Papers 1813, Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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