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The curse of uninformed voting: An experimental study

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  • Jens Großer
  • Michael Seebauer

Abstract

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.

Suggested Citation

  • Jens Großer & Michael Seebauer, 2013. "The curse of uninformed voting: An experimental study," Working Paper Series in Economics 64, University of Cologne, Department of Economics.
  • Handle: RePEc:kls:series:0064
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    File URL: http://ockenfels.uni-koeln.de/fileadmin/wiso_fak/stawi-ockenfels/pdf/wp_series_download/wp0064.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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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. 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. 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. Oliveros, Santiago, 2013. "Abstention, ideology and information acquisition," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 148(3), pages 871-902.
    5. Colin F. Camerer & Teck-Hua Ho & Juin-Kuan Chong, 2004. "A Cognitive Hierarchy Model of Games," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 119(3), pages 861-898.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bhattacharya, Sourav & Duffy, John & Kim, Sun-Tak, 2014. "Compulsory versus voluntary voting: An experimental study," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 84(C), pages 111-131.
    2. Bouton, Laurent & Llorente-Saguer, Aniol & Malherbe, Frédéric, 2017. "Unanimous rules in the laboratory," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 179-198.
    3. Alexander Elvitar & Andrei Gomberg & César Martinelli & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2014. "Ignorance and bias in collective decision:Theory and experiments," Working Papers 1401, Centro de Investigacion Economica, ITAM.
    4. Mark T. Le Quement & Isabel Marcin, 2016. "Communication and voting in heterogeneous committees: An experimental study," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2016_05, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, revised Oct 2016.

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