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The Swing Voter's Curse in the Laboratory

  • Marco Battaglini
  • Rebecca B. Morton
  • Thomas R. Palfrey

This paper reports the first laboratory study of the swing voter's curse and provides insights on the larger theoretical and empirical literature on "pivotal voter" models. Our experiment controls for different information levels of voters, as well as the size of the electorate, the distribution of preferences and other theoretically relevant parameters. The design varies the share of partisan voters and the prior belief about a payoff relevant state of the world. Our results support the equilibrium predictions of the Feddersen-Pesendorfer model. The voters act as if they are aware of the swing voter's curse and adjust their behaviour to compensate. While the compensation is not complete and there is some heterogeneity in individual behaviour, we find that aggregate outcomes, such as efficiency, turnout and margin of victory, closely track the theoretical predictions. Copyright , Wiley-Blackwell.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal The Review of Economic Studies.

Volume (Year): 77 (2010)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 61-89

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Handle: RePEc:oup:restud:v:77:y:2010:i:1:p:61-89
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  1. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
  2. Schram, Arthur & Sonnemans, Joep, 1996. "Voter Turnout as a Participation Game: An Experimental Investigation," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 385-406.
  3. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin & Andrea Moro, 2004. "The Performance of the Pivotal-Voter Model in Small-Scale Elections: Evidence from Texas Liquor Referenda," NBER Working Papers 10797, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  4. Erik Eyster & Matt Rabin, 2003. "Cursed Equilibrium," Method and Hist of Econ Thought 0303002, EconWPA.
  5. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1997. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections With Private Information," Levine's Working Paper Archive 1560, David K. Levine.
  6. Stephen Hansen & Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1987. "The Downsian model of electoral participation: Formal theory and empirical analysis of the constituency size effect," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 52(1), pages 15-33, January.
  7. David Dreyer Lassen, 2004. "The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," EPRU Working Paper Series 04-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  8. Battaglini, Marco, 2005. "Sequential voting with abstention," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 51(2), pages 445-463, May.
  9. Battaglini, Marco & Morton, Rebecca & Palfrey, Thomas R, 2005. "Efficiency, Equity and Timing in Voting Mechanisms," CEPR Discussion Papers 5291, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  10. Nagel, Rosemarie, 1995. "Unraveling in Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1313-26, December.
  11. Barry Nalebuff & Ron Shachar, 1999. "Follow the Leader: Theory and Evidence on Political Participation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 525-547, June.
  12. Timothy J. Feddersen, 2004. "Rational Choice Theory and the Paradox of Not Voting," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 99-112, Winter.
  13. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
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  17. Richard Mckelvey & Thomas Palfrey, 1998. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Extensive Form Games," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 1(1), pages 9-41, June.
  18. Abdul Noury, 2004. "Abstention in Daylight: Strategic Calculus of Voting in the European Parliament," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 121(1), pages 179-211, October.
  19. Coupe, Tom & Noury, Abdul G., 2004. "Choosing not to choose: on the link between information and abstention," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 261-265, August.
  20. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
  21. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
  22. Vai-Lam Mui & Timothy N. Cason, 2004. "Uncertainty and Resistance to Reform in Laboratory Participation Games," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 1, Econometric Society.
  23. W. Crain & Donald Leavens & Lynn Abbot, 1987. "Voting and not voting at the same time," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 53(3), pages 221-229, January.
  24. Timothy J. Fedderson & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1996. "Abstention in Elections with Asymmetric Information and Diverse Preferences," Discussion Papers 1195, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  25. Jens Großer & Tamar Kugler & Arthur Schram, 2003. "Preference Uncertainty, Voter Participation and Electoral Efficiency: An Experimental Study," Working Paper Series in Economics 2, University of Cologne, Department of Economics, revised 15 May 2005.
  26. McKelvey Richard D. & Palfrey Thomas R., 1995. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Normal Form Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 6-38, July.
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