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Compulsory versus voluntary voting: An experimental study

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  • Bhattacharya, Sourav
  • Duffy, John
  • Kim, Sun-Tak

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bhattacharya, Sourav & Duffy, John & Kim, Sun-Tak, 2014. "Compulsory versus voluntary voting: An experimental study," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 111-131.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:gamebe:v:84:y:2014:i:c:p:111-131
    DOI: 10.1016/j.geb.2013.12.008
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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Voting behavior; Voting mechanisms; Condorcet Jury model; Information aggregation; Laboratory experiments;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness

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