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Attitude-Dependent Altruism, Turnout and Voting

  • Julio J. Rotemberg

This paper presents a goal-oriented model of political participation based on two psychological assumptions. The first is that people are more altruistic towards individuals that agree with them and the second is that people's well-being rises when other people share their personal opinions. The act of voting is then a source of vicarious utility because it raises the well-being of individuals that agree with the voter. Substantial equilibrium turnout emerges with nontrivial voting costs and modest altruism. The model can explain higher turnout in close elections as well as votes for third-party candidates with no prospect of victory. For certain parameters, these third party candidates lose votes to more popular candidates, a phenomenon often called strategic voting. For other parameters, the model predicts "vote-stealing" where the addition of a third candidate robs a viable major candidate of electoral support.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 14302.

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Date of creation: Sep 2008
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Publication status: published as Julio Rotemberg, 2009. "Attitude-dependent altruism, turnout and voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 140(1), pages 223-244, July.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:14302
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  1. Andreoni, James, 1989. "Giving with Impure Altruism: Applications to Charity and Ricardian Equivalence," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 97(6), pages 1447-58, December.
  2. Joseph Farrell & Garth Saloner, 1984. "Standardization, Compatibility and Innovation," Working papers 345, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  3. Bendor, Jonathan & Diermeier, Daniel & Ting, Michael M., 2000. "A Behavioral Model of Turnout," Research Papers 1627, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
  4. Rotemberg, Julio J., 2008. "Minimally acceptable altruism and the ultimatum game," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 66(3-4), pages 457-476, June.
  5. Copeland, Cassandra & Laband, David N, 2002. " Expressiveness and Voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 110(3-4), pages 351-63, March.
  6. Feddersen, Timothy J & Pesendorfer, Wolfgang, 1996. "The Swing Voter's Curse," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 86(3), pages 408-24, June.
  7. Roger B. Myerson, 1997. "Large Poisson Games," Discussion Papers 1189, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. Brennan, Geoffrey & Hamlin, Alan, 1998. " Expressive Voting and Electoral Equilibrium," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 95(1-2), pages 149-75, April.
  9. Timothy Feddersen & Alvaro Sandroni, 2006. "A Theory of Participation in Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1271-1282, September.
  10. Timothy J. Feddersen, 2004. "Rational Choice Theory and the Paradox of Not Voting," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 18(1), pages 99-112, Winter.
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