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The performance of pivotal-voter models in small-scale elections: Evidence from Texas liquor referenda

  • Coate, Stephen
  • Conlin, Michael
  • Moro, Andrea

This paper explores the ability of pivotal-voter models to explain voter behavior in small-scale elections using data from Texas liquor referenda. The findings provide little support for the view that pivotal-voter models are a reasonable theory for understanding small-scale elections. Interestingly, this is not because they cannot explain the levels of turnout in the data, but rather because they cannot explain the size of the winning margins. The logic of pivotal-voter models implies that elections must be expected to be close even if there is a significant difference between the sizes of the groups or the intensity of their preferences. With even a relatively small number of eligible voters, elections that are expected to be close ex ante must end up being close ex post. However, in the data, winning margins are often significant.

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Article provided by Elsevier in its journal Journal of Public Economics.

Volume (Year): 92 (2008)
Issue (Month): 3-4 (April)
Pages: 582-596

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Handle: RePEc:eee:pubeco:v:92:y:2008:i:3-4:p:582-596
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