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The Swing Voter's Curse in the Laboratory

  • Battaglini, Marco
  • Morton, Rebecca
  • Palfrey, Thomas R

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, and clearly reject the notion that voters in the laboratory use naïve decision-theoretic strategies. 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.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5458.

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Date of creation: Jan 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5458
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  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Timothy Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1997. "Voting Behavior and Information Aggregation in Elections with Private Information," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 65(5), pages 1029-1058, September.
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  8. 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.
  9. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
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  13. Barry Nalebuff & Roni Shachar, 1997. "Follow The Leader: Theory And Evidence On Political Participation," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm57, Yale School of Management.
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  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
  21. 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.
  22. Colin F. Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho & Juin-Kuan Chong, 2004. "A Cognitive Hierarchy Model of Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 119(3), pages 861-898, August.
  23. Nagel, Rosemarie, 1995. "Unraveling in Guessing Games: An Experimental Study," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 85(5), pages 1313-26, December.
  24. 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.
  25. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
  26. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. " Explaining Voter Turnout Patterns: An Information Theory," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 84(1-2), pages 91-117, July.
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