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On Public Opinion Polls and Voters' Turnout

  • Klor, Esteban F
  • Winter, Eyal

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.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 5669.

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Date of creation: May 2006
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:5669
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  1. Guillaume R. Frechette & John H. Kagel & Steven Lehrer, 2000. "Bargaining in Legislatures: An Experimental Investigation of Open versus Closed Amendment Rules," Econometric Society World Congress 2000 Contributed Papers 1515, Econometric Society.
  2. Levine, David & Palfrey, Thomas, 2005. "A Paradox of Voter Participation? A Laboratory Study," Papers 09-19-2005a, Princeton University, Research Program in Political Economy.
  3. Vincent P. Crawford & Nagore Iriberri, 2004. "Fatal Attraction: Focality, Naivete, and Sophistication in Experimental Hide-and-Seek Games," Levine's Bibliography 122247000000000345, UCLA Department of Economics.
  4. Marco Battaglini & Rebecca Morton & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2006. "Efficiency, Equity, and Timing in Voting Mechanisms," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000205, UCLA Department of Economics.
  5. 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.
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  7. Taylor, Curtis & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2005. "Public Information and Electoral Bias," Working Papers 05-11, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  8. Mutsusaka, J.G. & Palda, F., 1991. "The Downsian Voter Meets the Ecological Fallacy," Papers 91-30, Southern California - School of Business Administration.
  9. Steven Callander, 2007. "Bandwagons and Momentum in Sequential Voting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 653-684.
  10. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
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  12. Barry Nalebuff & Ron Shachar, 1999. "Follow the Leader: Theory and Evidence on Political Participation," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 525-547, June.
  13. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
  14. Tilman Börgers, 2001. "Costly Voting," NajEcon Working Paper Reviews 625018000000000232, www.najecon.org.
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  16. Rapoport, Amnon & Seale, Darryl A. & Winter, Eyal, 2002. "Coordination and Learning Behavior in Large Groups with Asymmetric Players," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 39(1), pages 111-136, April.
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