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One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout

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  • Alan Gerber
  • Mitchell Hoffman
  • John Morgan
  • Collin Raymond

Abstract

A common feature of many models of voter turnout is that increasing the perceived closeness of the election should increase voter turnout. However, cleanly testing this prediction is difficult and little is known about voter beliefs regarding the closeness of a given race. We conduct a field experiment during the 2010 US gubernatorial elections where we elicit voter beliefs about the closeness of the election before and after showing different polls, which, depending on treatment, indicate a close race or a not close race. We find that subjects update their beliefs in response to new information, but systematically overestimate the probability of a very close election. However, the decision to vote is unaffected by beliefs about the closeness of the election. A follow-up field experiment, conducted during the 2014 gubernatorial elections but at much larger scale, also points to little relationship between poll information about closeness and voter turnout.

Suggested Citation

  • Alan Gerber & Mitchell Hoffman & John Morgan & Collin Raymond, 2017. "One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 23071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23071
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    1. Polls and voter turnout
      by ireadeconpapers in I Read Econ Papers on 2020-11-10 11:09:55

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    Cited by:

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    2. Bursztyn, Leonardo & Cantoni, Davide & Funk, Patricia & Yuchtman, Noam, 2017. "Polls, the Press, and Political Participation: The Effects of Anticipated Election Closeness on Voter Turnout," CEPR Discussion Papers 12088, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    3. Louis Kaplow & Scott Duke Kominers, 2020. "On the Representativeness of Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 26913, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    4. Yasmine Bekkouche & Julia Cage, 2018. "The Price of a Vote: Evidence from France, 1993-2014," Working Papers Series 68, Institute for New Economic Thinking.
    5. Marco Faravelli & Kenan Kalayci & Carlos Pimienta, 2020. "Costly voting: a large-scale real effort experiment," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 23(2), pages 468-492, June.
    6. Gersbach, Hans & Mamageishvili, Akaki & Tejada, Oriol, 2019. "The Effect of Handicaps on Turnout for Large Electorates: An Application to Assessment Voting," CEPR Discussion Papers 13921, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
    7. Yasmine Bekkouche & Julia Cage & Edgard Dewitte, 2020. "The Heterogeneous Price of a Vote: Evidence from Multiparty Systems, 1993-2017," Sciences Po publications 2020-07, Sciences Po.
    8. Yasmine Bekkouche & Julia Cage, 2019. "The Heterogeneous Price of a Vote: Evidence from France, 1993-2014," Sciences Po publications 2019-09, Sciences Po.
    9. Leonardo Bursztyn & Davide Cantoni & Patricia Funk & Felix Schönenberger & Noam Yuchtman, 2017. "Identifying the Effect of Election Closeness on Voter Turnout: Evidence from Swiss Referenda," NBER Working Papers 23490, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    10. Marina Agranov & Jacob K Goeree & Julian Romero & Leeat Yariv, 2018. "What Makes Voters Turn Out: The Effects of Polls and Beliefs," Journal of the European Economic Association, European Economic Association, vol. 16(3), pages 825-856.
    11. Sun, Junze & Schram, Arthur & Sloof, Randolph, 2021. "Elections under biased candidate endorsements — an experimental study," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 125(C), pages 141-158.
    12. Aristotelis Boukouras & Will Jennings & Lunzheng Li & Zacharias Maniadis, 2019. "Can Biased Polls Distort Electoral Results? Evidence From The Lab And The Field," Discussion Papers in Economics 19/06, Division of Economics, School of Business, University of Leicester.
    13. Davide Cantoni & David Y Yang & Noam Yuchtman & Y Jane Zhang, 2019. "Protests as Strategic Games: Experimental Evidence from Hong Kong's Antiauthoritarian Movement," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 134(2), pages 1021-1077.
    14. Federico Revelli & Tsung-Sheng Tsai, 2019. "Ties," CESifo Working Paper Series 7786, CESifo.
    15. Davide Cantoni & David Y. Yang & Noam Yuchtman & Y. Jane Zhang, 2017. "Are Protests Games of Strategic Complements or Substitutes? Experimental Evidence from Hong Kong's Democracy Movement," NBER Working Papers 23110, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    16. Spenkuch, Jörg L., 2018. "Expressive vs. strategic voters: An empirical assessment," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 165(C), pages 73-81.

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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • D03 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Behavioral Microeconomics: Underlying Principles
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior
    • H10 - Public Economics - - Structure and Scope of Government - - - General
    • P16 - Economic Systems - - Capitalist Systems - - - Political Economy of Capitalism

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