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To vote or to abstain? An experimental study or first past the poste and PR elections

  • André Blais

    (Université de Montréal [Montréal])

  • Jean-Benoît Pilet

    (Université Libre de Bruxelles - Département de Science Politique)

  • Karine Van Der Straeten

    (CNRS, Toulouse School of Economics)

  • Jean-François Laslier

    (Department of Economics, Ecole Polytechnique - Polytechnique - X - CNRS)

  • Maxime Heroux-Legault

    (Université de Montréal)

We examine through an experimental design how rational and non-rational considerations affect the decision to vote or to abstain in First Past the Post and PR elections. We show that in both types of elections, but particularly so under PR, a majority of subjects do not make the "right" decision, that is, they do not choose the option that is the most beneficial to them, given. We also demonstrate that a social norm such as sense of civic duty plays a bigger role, even in the lab, and particularly so in PR elections. We suggest that civic duty has a greater impact under PR because this electoral system has a more complicated formula, making it more difficult for voters to realize that their vote is unlikely to substantially affect the outcome of the election.

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Paper provided by HAL in its series Working Papers with number hal-00616823.

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Date of creation: 24 Aug 2011
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Handle: RePEc:hal:wpaper:hal-00616823
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  1. De Sinopoli, Francesco & Ferraris, Leo & Iannantuoni, Giovanna, 2011. "The effect of ideology on policy outcomes in proportional representation systems," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 87-90, September.
  2. Francesco Sinopoli & Giovanna Iannantuoni, 2007. "A spatial voting model where proportional rule leads to two-party equilibria," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 35(2), pages 267-286, January.
  3. Markus Mobius & Raphael Schoenle, 2006. "The Evolution of Work," Working Papers 25, Brandeis University, Department of Economics and International Businesss School.
  4. Schram, Arthur & Sonnemans, Joep, 1996. "Voter Turnout as a Participation Game: An Experimental Investigation," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 25(3), pages 385-406.
  5. Mueller,Dennis C., 2003. "Public Choice III," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521894753, April.
  6. Denver, D. T. & Hands, H. T. G., 1974. "Marginality and Turnout in British General Elections," British Journal of Political Science, Cambridge University Press, vol. 4(01), pages 17-35, January.
  7. repec:pit:wpaper:273 is not listed on IDEAS
  8. Schram, Arthur & Sonnemans, Joep, 1996. "Why people vote: Experimental evidence," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 17(4), pages 417-442, August.
  9. Leslie Seidle & David Miller, 1976. "Turnout, rational abstention and campaign effort," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 27(1), pages 121-126, September.
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