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

Listed author(s):
  • Alan Gerber
  • Mitchell Hoffman
  • John Morgan
  • Collin Raymond

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.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 23071.

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Date of creation: Jan 2017
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:23071
Note: LS PE POL
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