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The curse of uninformed voting: An experimental study

  • Jens Großer
  • Michael Seebauer
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    We study majority voting over two alternatives in small groups. Individuals have identical preferences but are uncertain about which alternative can better achieve their common interest. Before voting, each individual can get informed, to wit, buy a valuable but imperfect signal about the better alternative. Voting is either voluntary or compulsory. In the compulsory mode, each individual can vote for either of the two alternatives, while in the voluntary mode they can also abstain. An uninformed random vote generates negative externalities, as it may override informative group decisions in pivotal events. In our experiment, participants in groups of three or seven get informed more often with compulsory than voluntary voting, and in this way partly counteract the curse of uninformed voting when they cannot avoid it by abstaining. Surprisingly, uninformed voting is a common phenomenon even in the voluntary mode! A consequence of substantial uninformed voting is poor group efficiency in all treatments, indicating the need to reconsider current practices of jury and committee voting.

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    Paper provided by University of Cologne, Department of Economics in its series Working Paper Series in Economics with number 64.

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    Date of creation: 27 Aug 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:kls:series:0064
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    1. 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.
    2. Dino Gerardi & Margaret A. McConnell & Julian Romero & Leeat Yariv, 2009. "Get Out the (Costly) Vote: Institutional Design for Greater Participation," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 121, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
    3. Oliveros, Santiago, 2013. "Abstention, ideology and information acquisition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(3), pages 871-902.
    4. Abdul Ghafar Noury & Tom Coupé, 2004. "Choosing not to choose: on the link between information and abstention," ULB Institutional Repository 2013/7756, ULB -- Universite Libre de Bruxelles.
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