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The Paradox of Voter Participation: A Laboratory Study

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  • David K Levine
  • Thomas R Palfrey

Abstract

It is widely believed that rational choice theory is grossly inconsistent with empirical observations about voter turnout. We report the results of an experiment designed to test the voter turnout predictions of the rational choice Palfrey-Rosenthal model of participation with asymmetric information. We find that the three main comparative statics predictions are observed in the data: the size effect, whereby turnout goes down in larger electorates; the competition effect, whereby turnout is higher in elections that are expected to be close; and the underdog effect, whereby voters supporting the less popular alternative have higher turnout rates. We also compare the quantitative magnitudes of turnout to the predictions of Nash equilibrium. We find that there is under-voting for small electorates and overvoting for large electorates, relative to Nash equilibrium. These deviations from Nash equilibrium are consistent with the logit equilibrium, which provides a good fit to the data.
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)
(This abstract was borrowed from another version of this item.)

Suggested Citation

  • David K Levine & Thomas R Palfrey, 2005. "The Paradox of Voter Participation: A Laboratory Study," Levine's Working Paper Archive 618897000000000968, David K. Levine.
  • Handle: RePEc:cla:levarc:618897000000000968
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Groãÿer, Jens & Schram, Arthur, 2006. "Neighborhood Information Exchange and Voter Participation: An Experimental Study," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 100(2), pages 235-248, May.
    2. Cason, Timothy N. & Mui, Vai-Lam, 2005. "Uncertainty and resistance to reform in laboratory participation games," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 21(3), pages 708-737, September.
    3. Schram, Arthur & Sonnemans, Joep, 1996. "Voter Turnout as a Participation Game: An Experimental Investigation," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 25(3), pages 385-406.
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    7. 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.
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