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The Dark Side of the Vote: Biased Voters, Social Information, and Information Aggregation Through Majority Voting

  • Morton, Rebecca
  • Piovesan, Marco
  • Tyran, Jean-Robert

We experimentally investigate information aggregation through majority voting when some voters are biased. In such situations, majority voting can have a “dark side”, i.e. result in groups making choices inferior to those made by individuals acting alone. We develop a model to predict how two types of social information shape efficiency in the presence of biased voters and we test these predictions using a novel experimental design. In line with predictions, we find that information on the popularity of policy choices is beneficial when a minority of voters is biased, but harmful when a majority is biased. In theory, information on the success of policy choices elsewhere de-biases voters and alleviates the inefficiency. In the experiment, providing social information on success is ineffective. While voters with higher cognitive abilities are more likely to be de-biased by such information, most voters do not seem to interpret such information rationally.

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Paper provided by C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers in its series CEPR Discussion Papers with number 9098.

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Date of creation: Aug 2012
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Handle: RePEc:cpr:ceprdp:9098
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  1. Erik Snowberg & Justin Wolfers, 2010. "Explaining the Favorite-Longshot Bias: Is it Risk-Love or Misperceptions?," NBER Working Papers 15923, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. Blanco, Mariana & Engelmann, Dirk & Koch, Alexander K. & Normann, Hans-Theo, 2008. "Belief Elicitation in Experiments: Is there a Hedging Problem?," IZA Discussion Papers 3517, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  3. Tilman Slembeck & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2002. "Do Institutions Promote Rationality? An Experimental Study of the Three-Door Anomaly," University of St. Gallen Department of Economics working paper series 2002 2002-21, Department of Economics, University of St. Gallen.
  4. Rupert Sausgruber & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2010. "Are We Taxing Ourselves? How Deliberation and Experience Shape Voting on Taxes," Vienna Economics Papers 1010, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
  5. Urs Fischbacher, 2007. "z-Tree: Zurich toolbox for ready-made economic experiments," Experimental Economics, Springer, vol. 10(2), pages 171-178, June.
  6. Jean-Robert Tyran & Thomas Markussen & Louis Putterman, 2011. "Self-Organization for Collective Action: An Experimental Study of Voting on Formal, Informal, and No Sanction Regimes," Vienna Economics Papers 1103, University of Vienna, Department of Economics.
  7. S. Nageeb Ali & Jacob K. Goeree & Navin Kartik & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2008. "Information Aggregation in Standing and Ad Hoc Committees," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 181-86, May.
  8. Blinder, Alan S & Morgan, John, 2005. "Are Two Heads Better than One? Monetary Policy by Committee," Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, Blackwell Publishing, vol. 37(5), pages 789-811, October.
  9. Greiner, Ben, 2004. "An Online Recruitment System for Economic Experiments," MPRA Paper 13513, University Library of Munich, Germany.
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