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When collective ignorance is bliss: Theory and experiment on voting for learning

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  • Ginzburg, Boris
  • Guerra, José-Alberto

Abstract

When do groups and societies choose to be uninformed? We study a committee that needs to vote on a reform which will give every member a private state-dependent payoff. The committee can vote to learn the state at no cost. We show that the committee votes not to learn the state whenever independent voters are more divided than partisans. This implies that groups with conflicting preferences tend to seek less information. A laboratory experiment shows that committees are substantially more likely to vote against acquiring information when the theory predicts them to do so. We also observe deviations from theory that are largely explained by cognitive limitations. At the same time, subjects with more experience or with greater strategic competence are more likely to vote in line with the theory, providing evidence for external validity of the model.

Suggested Citation

  • 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.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:169:y:2019:i:c:p:52-64
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jpubeco.2018.10.010
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    Cited by:

    1. Boris Ginzburg & José-Alberto Guerra & Warn N. Lekfuangfu, 2020. "Counting on My Vote Not Counting: Expressive Voting in Committees," Documentos CEDE 018250, Universidad de los Andes - CEDE.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Voting; Collective learning; Reform adoption; Preference heterogeneity; Laboratory experiment;

    JEL classification:

    • 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
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior

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