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A Behavioral Model of Turnout

  • Bendor, Jonathan

    (Stanford U)

  • Diermeier, Daniel

    (Northwestern U)

  • Ting, Michael M.

    (U of North Carolina)

The so-called "paradox of voting" is major anomaly for rational choice theories of elections. If voting is costly and citizens are rational then large electorates the expected turnout would be small, for if many people voted the chance of anyone being pivotal would be too small to make the act worthwhile. Yet many people do vote, even in large national elections. To address this puzzle we construct a model of adaptive rationality: citizens learn by simple trial-and-error, repeating satisfactory actions and avoiding unsatisfactory ones. (Their aspiration levels, which code current payoffs as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, are also endogenous, themselves adjusting to experience.) Our main result is that agents who adapt in this manner turn out in substantial numbers even in large electorates and even if voting is costly for everyone.

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Paper provided by Stanford University, Graduate School of Business in its series Research Papers with number 1627.

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Date of creation: Mar 2000
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Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:1627
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  1. Roger B. Myerson, 1994. "Population Uncertainty and Poisson Games," Discussion Papers 1102R, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  2. Roger B. Myerson, 1996. "Economic Analysis of Political Institutions: An Introduction," Discussion Papers 1155, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  3. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
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