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Voting to Tell Others

  • Stefano DellaVigna
  • John A. List
  • Ulrike Malmendier
  • Gautam Rao

Why do people vote? We argue that social image plays a significant role in explaining turnout: people vote because others will ask. The expectation of being asked motivates turnout if individuals derive pride from telling others that they voted, or feel shame from admitting that they did not vote, provided that lying is costly. We design a field experiment to estimate the effect of social image concerns on voting. In a door-to-door survey about election turnout, we experimentally vary (i) the informational content and use of a flyer pre-announcing the survey, (ii) the duration and payment for the survey, and (iii) the incentives to lie about past voting. Our estimates suggest significant social image concerns. For a plausible range of lying costs, we estimate the monetary value of voting `because others will ask' to be in the range of $5-$15 for the 2010 Congressional election. In a complementary get-out-the-vote experiment, we inform potential voters before the election that we will ask them later whether they voted. We find suggestive evidence that the treatment increases turnout.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 19832.

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Date of creation: Jan 2014
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Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:19832
Note: IO LS PE POL
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  1. Lacetera, Nicola & Macis, Mario, 2010. "Social image concerns and prosocial behavior: Field evidence from a nonlinear incentive scheme," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(2), pages 225-237, November.
  2. David Laibson & Andrea Repetto & Jeremy Tobacman, 2007. "Estimating Discount Functions with Consumption Choices over the Lifecycle," Documentos de Trabajo 236, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  3. John List & Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2012. "Testing for altruism and social pressure in charitable giving," Natural Field Experiments 00137, The Field Experiments Website.
  4. repec:feb:framed:0087 is not listed on IDEAS
  5. Coate, Stephen & Conlin, Michael & Moro, Andrea, 2008. "The performance of pivotal-voter models in small-scale elections: Evidence from Texas liquor referenda," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 92(3-4), pages 582-596, April.
  6. Ariely, Dan & Bracha, Anat & Meier, Stephan, 2007. "Doing Good or Doing Well? Image Motivation and Monetary Incentives in Behaving Prosocially," IZA Discussion Papers 2968, Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA).
  7. Uri Gneezy, 2005. "Deception: The Role of Consequences," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 95(1), pages 384-394, March.
  8. S. Nageeb Ali & Charles Lin, 2013. "Why People Vote: Ethical Motives and Social Incentives," American Economic Journal: Microeconomics, American Economic Association, vol. 5(2), pages 73-98, May.
  9. Nava Ashraf & Oriana Bandiera & Kelsy Jack, 2012. "No margin, no mission?: a field experiment on incentives for pro-social tasks," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 51614, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
  10. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9), pages 1082-1095.
  11. Santiago Sanchez-Pages & Marc Vorsatz, 2004. "An Experimental Study of Truth-Telling in a Sender-Receiver Game," ESE Discussion Papers 128, Edinburgh School of Economics, University of Edinburgh.
  12. Allcott, Hunt, 2011. "Social norms and energy conservation," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 95(9-10), pages 1082-1095, October.
  13. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
  14. David Card & Stefano DellaVigna & Ulrike Malmendier, 2011. "The Role of Theory in Field Experiments," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 25(3), pages 39-62, Summer.
  15. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
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