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Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes

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  • Shue, Kelly

    () (Harvard University)

  • Luttmer, Erzo F.P.

    () (Dartmouth College)

Abstract

If voters are fully rational and have negligible cognition costs, ballot layout should not affect election outcomes. In this paper, we explore deviations from rational voting using quasi-random variation in candidate name placement on ballots from the 2003 California Recall Election. We find that the voteshares of minor candidates almost double when their names are adjacent to the names of major candidates on a ballot. Voteshare gains are largest in precincts with high percentages of Democratic, Hispanic, low-income, non-English speaking, poorly educated, or young voters. A major candidate that attracts a disproportionate share of voters from these types of precincts faces a systematic electoral disadvantage. If the Republican frontrunner Arnold Schwarzenegger and Democratic frontrunner Cruz Bustamante had been in a tie, adjacency misvoting would have given Schwarzenegger an edge of 0.06% of the voteshare. This gain in voteshare exceeds the margins of victory in the 2000 U.S. Presidential Election and the 2004 Washington Gubernatorial Election. We explore which voting technology platforms and brands mitigate misvoting.

Suggested Citation

  • Shue, Kelly & Luttmer, Erzo F.P., 2006. "Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes," IZA Discussion Papers 2451, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  • Handle: RePEc:iza:izadps:dp2451
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2007. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions Over the Lifecycle," NBER Working Papers 13191, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Amy King & Andrew Leigh, 2009. "Are Ballot Order Effects Heterogeneous?," Social Science Quarterly, Southwestern Social Science Association, vol. 90(1), pages 71-87.
    3. S. Dellavigna., 2011. "Psychology and Economics: Evidence from the Field," VOPROSY ECONOMIKI, N.P. Redaktsiya zhurnala "Voprosy Economiki", vol. 4.
    4. Gani Aldashev & Giovanni Mastrobuoni, 2010. "Invalid Ballots and Electoral Competition," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 153, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    5. Sumit Agarwal & John C. Driscoll & Xavier Gabaix & David Laibson, 2009. "The Age of Reason: Financial Decisions over the Life Cycle and Implications for Regulation," Brookings Papers on Economic Activity, Economic Studies Program, The Brookings Institution, vol. 40(2 (Fall)), pages 51-117.
    6. Esteve-Volart, Berta & Bagues, Manuel, 2012. "Are women pawns in the political game? Evidence from elections to the Spanish Senate," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 96(3), pages 387-399.
    7. Christian Bredemeier, 2014. "Imperfect information and the Meltzer-Richard hypothesis," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 159(3), pages 561-576, June.
    8. Philipp Lergetporer & Guido Schwerdt & Katharina Werner & Ludger Wößmann, 2016. "Information and Preferences for Public Spending: Evidence from Representative Survey Experiments," CESifo Working Paper Series 5938, CESifo Group Munich.
    9. Lin, C.-Y. Cynthia & Muelegger, Erich, 2007. "Using Approximations to Competitors’ Private Information: An Application of Cognitive Costs to Strategic Behavior," Working Paper Series rwp07-025, Harvard University, John F. Kennedy School of Government.
    10. Giorgio Bellettini & Carlotta Berti Ceroni & Chiara Monfardini, 2014. "Socio-Economic Heterogeneity and Electoral Turnout: An Aggregate Analysis with Precinct-Level Data," CESifo Working Paper Series 4999, CESifo Group Munich.
    11. Nattavudh Powdthavee & Paul Dolan, Robert Metcalfe, 2008. "Electing Happiness: Does Happiness Effect Voting and do Elections Affect Happiness," Discussion Papers 08/30, Department of Economics, University of York.
    12. Lin, C.Y. Cynthia & Muehlegger, Erich J., 2009. "Heuristic Strategies, Firm Behavior and Industry Information," Working Papers 225898, University of California, Davis, Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    electoral systems; bounded rationality; voting mistakes; ballot design; voting technology; voter intent; electoral reform;

    JEL classification:

    • D01 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Microeconomic Behavior: Underlying Principles
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • D83 - Microeconomics - - Information, Knowledge, and Uncertainty - - - Search; Learning; Information and Knowledge; Communication; Belief; Unawareness
    • J10 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Demographic Economics - - - General

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