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Information Acquisition, Ideology and Turnout:Theory and Evidence from Britain

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  • Valentino Larcinese

Abstract

The amount of political information that voters decide to acquire during anelectoral campaign depends, among other things, on prior ideological beliefsabout parties and/or candidates. Voters that are ex ante indifferent about thecandidates attach little value to information because they perceive thatvoting itself will have little value. Voters that are ex ante very ideologicalalso attach little value to information because they think that the news willhardly change their opinion. Thus, high incentives to be informed can befound at intermediate levels of ideological strength. Moreover, the impact ofincreased political knowledge on turnout is asymmetric: New informationincrease the probability of voting of indifferent voters but decrease that ofvery ideological voters. These results are derived within a decisiontheoretical model of information acquisition and turnout that combines theRiker-Ordeshook (1968) approach to voting behaviour with the Becker(1965) approach to "personal production functions". These predictions arethen tested on survey data from the 1997 British Election Study. Ourempirical findings are compatible with all the results of the theoreticalexercise.

Suggested Citation

  • Valentino Larcinese, 2006. "Information Acquisition, Ideology and Turnout:Theory and Evidence from Britain," STICERD - Political Economy and Public Policy Paper Series 18, Suntory and Toyota International Centres for Economics and Related Disciplines, LSE.
  • Handle: RePEc:cep:stipep:18
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. repec:cup:apsrev:v:93:y:1999:i:02:p:381-398_21 is not listed on IDEAS
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    5. Sanders, Mitchell S., 2001. "Uncertainty and Turnout," Political Analysis, Cambridge University Press, vol. 9(01), pages 45-57, January.
    6. Timothy Besley & Andrea Prat, 2006. "Handcuffs for the Grabbing Hand? Media Capture and Government Accountability," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(3), pages 720-736, June.
    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. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-424, June.
    9. 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.
    10. Nicola Persico, 2004. "Committee Design with Endogenous Information," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 71(1), pages 165-191.
    11. Matsusaka, John G & Palda, Filip, 1999. "Voter Turnout: How Much Can We Explain?," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 98(3-4), pages 431-446, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Jo Thori Lind & Dominic Rohner, 2017. "Knowledge is Power: A Theory of Information, Income and Welfare Spending," Economica, London School of Economics and Political Science, vol. 84(336), pages 611-646, October.
    2. Francesco Drago & Tommaso Nannicini & Francesco Sobbrio, 2014. "Meet the Press: How Voters and Politicians Respond to Newspaper Entry and Exit," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 159-188, July.
    3. Valentino Larcinese, 2007. "Does political knowledge increase turnout? Evidence from the 1997 British general election," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 131(3), pages 387-411, June.
    4. repec:aea:aejmic:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:108-40 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Tim Wegenast, 2010. "Uninformed Voters for Sale: Electoral Competition, Information and Interest Groups in the US," Kyklos, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 63(2), pages 271-300, May.
    6. Bruce Blonigen, 2008. "New Evidence on the Formation of Trade Policy Preferences," NBER Working Papers 14627, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    7. Aldashev, Gani, 2010. "Political Information Acquisition for Social Exchange," Quarterly Journal of Political Science, now publishers, vol. 5(1), pages 1-25, April.
    8. Larcinese, Valentino & Sircar, Indraneel, 2017. "Crime and punishment the British way: Accountability channels following the MPs’ expenses scandal," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 75-99.
    9. Oliveros, Santiago, 2013. "Abstention, ideology and information acquisition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(3), pages 871-902.
    10. Sobbrio, Francesco & Navarra, Pietro, 2010. "Electoral participation and communicative voting in Europe," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 26(2), pages 185-207, June.
    11. Timothy Besley & Valentino Larcinese, 2011. "Working or shirking? Expenses and attendance in the UK Parliament," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 146(3), pages 291-317, March.
    12. John Gasper, 2009. "Reporting for sale: the market for news coverage," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 141(3), pages 493-508, December.
    13. Riccardo Puglisi & James M. Snyder, Jr., 2008. "Media Coverage of Political Scandals," NBER Working Papers 14598, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    14. 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.
    15. Joseph McMurray, 2008. "Information and Voting: the Wisdom of the Experts versus the Wisdom of the Masses," Wallis Working Papers WP59, University of Rochester - Wallis Institute of Political Economy.
    16. Kevin Denny & Orla Doyle, 2005. "Political interest, cognitive ability and personality : determinants of voter turnout in Britain (version 1.5)," Working Papers 200511, School of Economics, University College Dublin.
    17. Francesco Sobbrio, 2014. "The political economy of news media: theory, evidence and open issues," Chapters,in: A Handbook of Alternative Theories of Public Economics, chapter 13, pages 278-320 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    18. repec:ctc:serie1:def5 is not listed on IDEAS

    More about this item

    Keywords

    elections; turnout; political knowledge; information; ideology; partisanship; political participation; mass media.;

    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

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