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Are Voters Rational?

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  • Lyytikäinen, Teemu
  • Tukiainen, Janne

Abstract

We test whether voters are rational in the sense that their decision to cast a vote depends on its expected impact on the election outcomes. We provide causal evidence on this rational voting hypothesis by using exogenous variation in pivotal probabilities that arise at population thresholds determining council sizes in Finnish municipal elections. First, we document statistically significant, economically relevant and robust effects of crossing the threshold on turnout. Second, we use simulations to measure the pivotal probabilities. Finally, we use a novel instrumental variables design to show that the changes in the pivotal probabilities rather than simultaneous changes in the number of available candidates or their quality explain the changes in turnout. Moreover, we document that turnout responds only to such pivotal probabilities that are salient to the voters, and that the effect of district magnitude on the election closeness in general or the proportionality of elections is not behind the response in turnout. Thus, the rational voter exists. This version (January 19, 2016) replaces the September 27, 2013 version.

Suggested Citation

  • Lyytikäinen, Teemu & Tukiainen, Janne, 2013. "Are Voters Rational?," Working Papers 50, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
  • Handle: RePEc:fer:wpaper:50
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    Cited by:

    1. Britto, Diogo G.C. & Fiorin, Stefano, 2020. "Corruption and legislature size: Evidence from Brazil," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 65(C).
    2. Matakos, Konstantinos & Savolainen, Riikka & Troumpounis, Orestis & Tukiainen, Janne & Xefteris, Dimitrios, 2018. "Electoral Institutions and Intraparty Cohesion," Working Papers 109, VATT Institute for Economic Research.
    3. Simon Lapointe & Tuukka Saarimaa & Janne Tukiainen, 2018. "Effects of municipal mergers on voter turnout," Local Government Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 44(4), pages 512-530, July.
    4. Mavridis, Christos & Serena, Marco, 2021. "Complete information pivotal-voter model with asymmetric group size and asymmetric benefits," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 67(C).
    5. Andrew C. Eggers & Ronny Freier & Veronica Grembi & Tommaso Nannicini, 2018. "Regression Discontinuity Designs Based on Population Thresholds: Pitfalls and Solutions," American Journal of Political Science, John Wiley & Sons, vol. 62(1), pages 210-229, January.

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    Local government elections; Instrumental variables; Rational voting; Regression discontinuity; Local public economics; Kunnallistalous; Effectiveness of public services; Julkisten palvelujen vaikuttavuus; D720 - Economic Models of Political Processes: Rent-seeking; Elections; Legislatures; and Voting Behavior; C260 - Econometric Methods: Single Equation Models; Single Variables: Instrumental Variables (IV) Estimation;
    All these keywords.

    JEL classification:

    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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