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The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote

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  • Mulligan, Casey B
  • Hunter, Charles G

Abstract

Some economic theories of voting suggest that competition leads to close elections, and that election closeness is a factor for bringing voters to the polls. How often in fact are civic elections decided by one vote? One of every 89,000 votes cast in U.S. Congressional elections, and one of 15,000 in state legislator elections, "mattered" in the sense that they were cast for a candidate that tied or won by one vote. We find an inverse relationship between election size and the frequency of one vote margins. Recounts, and other margin-specific election procedures, are determinants of the pivotal vote frequency. Copyright 2003 by Kluwer Academic Publishers

Suggested Citation

  • Mulligan, Casey B & Hunter, Charles G, 2003. "The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 116(1-2), pages 31-54, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:pubcho:v:116:y:2003:i:1-2:p:31-54
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & José A. Scheinkman, 1996. "Crime and Social Interactions," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-548.
    2. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-424, June.
    3. Chamberlain, Gary & Rothschild, Michael, 1981. "A note on the probability of casting a decisive vote," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 152-162, August.
    4. Howard Margolis, 1977. "Probability of a tie election," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 135-138, September.
    5. Fischer, A J, 1999. "The Probability of Being Decisive," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 101(3-4), pages 267-283, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Tyran, Jean-Robert & Sausgruber, Rupert, 2006. "A little fairness may induce a lot of redistribution in democracy," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 50(2), pages 469-485, February.
    2. Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Does the World Economy Swing National Elections?," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 71(2), pages 163-181, April.
    3. Amrita Dillon & GANI ALDASHEV, 2015. "Voter Turnout and Political Rents," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 17(4), pages 528-552, August.
    4. Darren Grant & Michael Toma, 2008. "Elemental tests of the traditional rational voting model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 137(1), pages 173-195, October.
    5. Brad R. Taylor, 2016. "Exit and the Epistemic Quality of Voice," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 36(2), pages 133-144, June.
    6. John Maloney & Andrew Pickering, 2008. "Ideology, Competence and Luck: What determines general election results?," Bristol Economics Discussion Papers 08/607, Department of Economics, University of Bristol, UK.
    7. repec:kap:pubcho:v:172:y:2017:i:1:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0412-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Alan Gerber & Mitchell Hoffman & John Morgan & Collin Raymond, 2017. "One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 23071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    9. David K Levine & Andrea Mattozzi, 2016. "Voter Participation with Collusive Parties," Levine's Working Paper Archive 786969000000001234, David K. Levine.
    10. Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2013. "Are Voters Rational?," Working Papers 50, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    11. Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others," NBER Working Papers 13562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    12. Ozgur Evren, 2009. "Altruism, Turnout and Strategic Voting Behavior," Levine's Working Paper Archive 814577000000000309, David K. Levine.
    13. Andrew Gelman & Nate Silver & Aaron Edlin, 2009. "What is the probability your vote will make a difference?," NBER Working Papers 15220, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. Eric Crampton & Andrew Farrant, 2004. "Expressive and Instrumental Voting: The Scylla and Charybdis of Constitutional Political Economy," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 15(1), pages 77-88, March.
    15. Stefano Demichelis & Amrita Dhillon, 2010. "Learning in Elections and Voter Turnout," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 12(5), pages 871-896, October.

    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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