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Indecision Theory: Explaining Selective Abstention in Multiple Elections

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  • Ghirardato, Paolo
  • Katz, Jonathan N.

Abstract

We present a new model of voting which explains the so-called "roll-off" phenomenon: Selective abstention in multiple elections. We first characterize when a Bayesian voter prefers to abstain, and find that such choice necessitates correlation in the voter's beliefs between election outcomes and candidate policies. We then show that if a voter is ambiguity averse, he may abstain under more general circumstances. In fact, ambiguity aversion about the candidates' policy positions can make abstention look to the voter a smaller "mistake" than voting for one of the candidates. We investigate the conditions under which this happens, and find that it does when the voter sees the candidates as sufficiently complementary in their ambiguity. As this will likely happen in those elections on which the voter has poor or nil information, our model provides a possible explanation for selective abstention.

Suggested Citation

  • Ghirardato, Paolo & Katz, Jonathan N., 2000. "Indecision Theory: Explaining Selective Abstention in Multiple Elections," Working Papers 1106, California Institute of Technology, Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences.
  • Handle: RePEc:clt:sswopa:1106
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    File URL: http://www.hss.caltech.edu/SSPapers/wp1106r1.pdf
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    1. Ramon Casadesus-Masanell & Peter Klibanoff & Emre Ozdenoren, 1998. "Maximum Expected Utility over Savage Acts with a Set of Priors," Discussion Papers 1218, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    2. Truman F. Bewley, 1986. "Knightian Decision Theory: Part 1," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 807, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
    3. Casadesus-Masanell, Ramon & Klibanoff, Peter & Ozdenoren, Emre, 2000. "Maxmin Expected Utility over Savage Acts with a Set of Priors," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 92(1), pages 35-65, May.
    4. Casadesus-Masanell, Ramon & Klibanoff, Peter & Ozdenoren, Emre, 2000. "Maxmin expected utility through statewise combinations," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 66(1), pages 49-54, January.
    5. Hong Chew Soo & Karni Edi, 1994. "Choquet Expected Utility with a Finite State Space: Commutativity and Act-Independence," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 469-479, April.
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    Cited by:

    1. Emanuele Bracco & Federico Revelli, 2017. "Concurrent Elections and Political Accountability: Evidence from Italian Local Elections," Working papers 56, Società Italiana di Economia Pubblica.

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