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Turned Off or Turned Out? Campaign Advertising,Information, and Voting

  • Daniel Houser


    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

  • Rebecca Morton


  • Thomas Stratmann


    (Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science and Department of Economics, George Mason University)

We present results from laboratory experimental elections in which voter information is endogenously provided by candidates and voting is voluntary. We also compare advertisements that are costless to voters with those that reduce voter payoffs. We fi?nd that informative advertisements increase voter participation and thus informative campaign advertising "turns out" voters. However, the effect of information is less than that found in previous experimental studies where information is exogenously provided by the experimenter. Furthermore, we find that when advertising by winning candidates reduces voter payoffs, informed voters are less likely to participate, thus are "turned off" rather than "turned out."Finally, we discover that candidates tend to over-advertise, and contrary to theoretical predictions, advertise significantly more when voting is voluntary than when it is compulsory.

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Paper provided by George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science in its series Working Papers with number 1005.

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Length: 45 pages
Date of creation: Jul 2008
Date of revision: Jul 2008
Handle: RePEc:gms:wpaper:1005
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  1. Coupe, Tom & Noury, Abdul G., 2004. "Choosing not to choose: on the link between information and abstention," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 84(2), pages 261-265, August.
  2. Matsusaka, John G, 1995. " Explaining Voter Turnout Patterns: An Information Theory," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 84(1-2), pages 91-117, July.
  3. David Dreyer Lassen, 2004. "The Effect of Information on Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Natural Experiment," EPRU Working Paper Series 04-03, Economic Policy Research Unit (EPRU), University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  4. Daniel Houser & Thomas Stratmann, 2008. "Selling favors in the lab: experiments on campaign finance reform," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 136(1), pages 215-239, July.
  5. Matthew Gentzkow, 2006. "Television and Voter Turnout," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 121(3), pages 931-972, 08.
  6. Marco Battaglini & Rebecca B. Morton & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2008. "Information Aggregation and Strategic Abstention in Large Laboratory Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(2), pages 194-200, May.
  7. Richard J. Cebula, 2007. "Influences on the Voter Participation Rate," American Journal of Economics and Sociology, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 66(2), pages 399-412, 04.
  8. Stephen Coate, 2004. "Pareto-Improving Campaign Finance Policy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(3), pages 628-655, June.
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