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Public Information and Electoral Bias

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  • Taylor, Curtis
  • Yildirim, Huseyin

Abstract

We present a theory of strategic voting that predicts elections are more likely to be close and voter turnout is more likely to be high when citizens possess better public information about the composition of the electorate. These findings are disturbing because they suggest that providing more information to potential voters about aggregate political preferences (e.g., through polls, political stock markets, or expert forecasts) may actually undermine the democratic process. We show that if the distribution of preferences is common knowledge, then strategic voting leads to a stark neutrality result in which the probability that either alternative wins the election is 12. This occurs because membersof the minority compensate exactly for their smaller group size by voting with higher frequency. By contrast, when citizens are symmetrically ignorant about the distribution of types, the majority is more likely to win the election and expected voter turnout is lower. Indeed, when the population is large and voting costs are small, the majority wins with probability arbitrarily close to one in equilibrium. Welfare is, therefore, unambiguously higher when citizens possess less information about the distribution of political preferences.

Suggested Citation

  • Taylor, Curtis & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2005. "Public Information and Electoral Bias," Working Papers 05-11, Duke University, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:duk:dukeec:05-11
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    Cited by:

    1. Esteban F. Klory & Eyal Winter, 2006. "On Public Opinion Polls and Voters' Turnout," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000451, David K. Levine.
    2. Tasos Kalandrakis, 2009. "Robust rational turnout," Economic Theory, Springer;Society for the Advancement of Economic Theory (SAET), vol. 41(2), pages 317-343, November.
    3. Casella, Alessandra & Gelman, Andrew, 2008. "A simple scheme to improve the efficiency of referenda," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(10-11), pages 2240-2261, October.
    4. Thomas Jensen & Asger Lau Andersen, 2010. "Exit Polls and Voter Turnout," EPRU Working Paper Series 2010-10, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
    5. Ming Li & Dipjyoti Majumdar, 2010. "A Psychologically Based Model of Voter Turnout," Journal of Public Economic Theory, Association for Public Economic Theory, vol. 12(5), pages 979-1002, October.
    6. Taylor, Curtis R. & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2010. "A unified analysis of rational voting with private values and group-specific costs," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 70(2), pages 457-471, November.
    7. Sayantan Ghosal & Ben Lockwood, 2009. "Costly voting when both information and preferences differ: is turnout too high or too low?," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 33(1), pages 25-50, June.
    8. Timothy Feddersen & Alvaro Sandroni, 2006. "A Theory of Participation in Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1271-1282, September.
    9. Marina Agranov & Jacob K. Goeree & Julian Romero & Leeat Yariv, 2012. "What makes voters turn out: the effects of polls and beliefs," ECON - Working Papers 067, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
    10. Curtis R. Taylor & Huseyin Yildirim, 2006. "An Analysis of Rational Voting with Private Values and Cost Uncertainty," Levine's Bibliography 321307000000000060, UCLA Department of Economics.
    11. Arianna Degan, 2006. "Policy Positions, Information Acquisition and Turnout," Scandinavian Journal of Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 108(4), pages 669-682, December.

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