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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.

Suggested Citation

  • Bendor, Jonathan & Diermeier, Daniel & Ting, Michael M., 2000. "A Behavioral Model of Turnout," Research Papers 1627, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  • Handle: RePEc:ecl:stabus:1627

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Roger B. Myerson, 1998. "Population uncertainty and Poisson games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 27(3), pages 375-392.
    2. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
    3. 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.
    4. Kollman, Ken & Miller, John H. & Page, Scott E., 1998. "Political Parties and Electoral Landscapes," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 28(01), pages 139-158, January.
    5. repec:cup:apsrev:v:86:y:1992:i:04:p:929-937_09 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Julio Rotemberg, 2009. "Attitude-dependent altruism, turnout and voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(1), pages 223-244, July.
    2. Marcelo Tyszler & Arthur Schram, 2016. "Information and strategic voting," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 19(2), pages 360-381, June.
    3. Luís Aguiar-Conraria & Pedro Magalhães, 2010. "Referendum design, quorum rules and turnout," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 144(1), pages 63-81, July.
    4. Serge Blondel & Louis Lévy-garboua, 2011. "Can non-expected utility theories explain the paradox of not voting?," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 31(4), pages 3158-3168.
    5. Duffy, John, 2006. "Agent-Based Models and Human Subject Experiments," Handbook of Computational Economics,in: Leigh Tesfatsion & Kenneth L. Judd (ed.), Handbook of Computational Economics, edition 1, volume 2, chapter 19, pages 949-1011 Elsevier.
    6. Martorana, Marco F. & Mazza, Isidoro, 2012. "Adaptive voting: an empirical analysis of participation and choice," MPRA Paper 36165, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    7. Martorana, Marco Ferdinando, 2011. "Voting Behaviour in a dynamic perspective: a survey," MPRA Paper 37592, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    8. Martorana, Marco & Mazza, Isidoro, 2010. "Satisfaction and adaptation in voting behavior: an empirical exploration," DEMQ Working Paper Series 2010/6, University of Catania, Department of Economics and Quantitative Methods.
    9. Daniel Diermeier & Jan A. Van Mieghem, 2000. "Spontaneous Collective Action," Discussion Papers 1302, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    10. Jasper Muis, 2010. "Simulating Political Stability and Change in the Netherlands (1998-2002): an Agent-Based Model of Party Competition with Media Effects Empirically Tested," Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation, vol. 13(2), pages 1-4.
    11. Chun-chieh Wang, 2012. "Expressive voting, vanishing moderate voters, and divergent ideologies," Economics Bulletin, AccessEcon, vol. 32(4), pages 2727-2733.
    12. Edlin, Aaron & Gelman, Andrew & Kaplan, Noah, 2008. "Voting as a Rational Choice," Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series qt0x3780rb, Berkeley Olin Program in Law & Economics.
    13. Daniel Diermeier & Jan A. Van Mieghem, 2000. "Coordination in Turnout Games," Discussion Papers 1309, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    14. Bendor, Jonatahn & Diermeier, Daniel & Ting, Michael M., 2002. "The Empirical Content of Adaptive Models," Research Papers 1877, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    15. Panova, Elena, 2015. "A passion for voting," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 44-65.
    16. Nadia Fiorino & Nicola Pontarollo & Roberto Ricciuti, 2016. "Voter Turnout in European Parliament Elections: A Spatial Analysis," CESifo Working Paper Series 5910, CESifo Group Munich.
    17. Landi, M. & Sodini, M., 2012. "An evolutionary analysis of turnout with conformist citizens," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 36(10), pages 1431-1447.
    18. Aaron Edlin & Andrew Gelman & Noah Kaplan, 2007. "Voting as a Rational Choice: Why and How People Vote to Improve the Well-Being of Others," NBER Working Papers 13562, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

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