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On Public Opinion Polls and Voters' Turnout

Author

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  • Klor, Esteban F
  • Winter, Eyal

Abstract

This paper studies the effects that the revelation of information on the electorate's preferences has on voters' turnout decisions. The experimental data show that closeness in the division of preferences induces a significant increase in turnout. Moreover, for closely divided electorates (and only for these electorates) the provision of information significantly raises the participation of subjects supporting the slightly larger team relative to the smaller team. This behaviour contradicts the qualitative predictions of the unique quasi-symmetric Nash equilibrium of the theoretical model. We show that the heterogeneous effect of information on the participation of subjects in different teams is driven by the subjects' (incorrect) beliefs of casting a pivotal vote. Simply put, subjects overestimate the probability of casting a pivotal vote when they belong to the team with a slight majority, and choose the strategy that maximizes their utility based on their inflated probability assessment. Empirical evidence on gubernatorial elections in the U.S. between 1990 and 2005 is consistent with our main experimental result. Namely, we observe that the difference in the actual vote tally between the party leading according to the polls and the other party is larger than the one predicted by the polls only in closely divided electorates. We provide a behavioural model that explains the main findings of our experimental and empirical analyses.

Suggested Citation

  • Klor, Esteban F & Winter, Eyal, 2006. "On Public Opinion Polls and Voters' Turnout," CEPR Discussion Papers 5669, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  • Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5669
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Esteban Klor & Eyal Winter, 2007. "The welfare effects of public opinion polls," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 35(3), pages 379-394, February.
    2. Javier Gardeazabal, 2010. "Vote Shares in Spanish General Elections as a Fractional Response to the Economy and Conflict," Economics of Security Working Paper Series 33, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    3. Taylor, Curtis R. & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2010. "Public information and electoral bias," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 68(1), pages 353-375, January.
    4. Jens Großer & Arthur Schram, 2007. "Public Opinion Polls, Voter Turnout, and Welfare: An Experimental Study," Labsi Experimental Economics Laboratory University of Siena 014, University of Siena.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    experimental economics; public opinion polls; voter turnout;

    JEL classification:

    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games
    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H41 - Public Economics - - Publicly Provided Goods - - - Public Goods

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