The Empirical Frequency of a Pivotal Vote
Empirical distributions of election margins are computing using data on U.S. Congressional and state legislator election returns. We present some of the first empirical calculations of the frequency of close elections, showing that one of every 100,000 votes cast in U.S. elections, and one of every 15,000 votes cast in state elections, 'mattered' in the sense that they were cast for a candidate that officially tied or won by one vote. Very close elections are more rare than the independent binomial model predicts. The evidence also suggests that recounts, and other margin-specific election procedures, are quite relevant determinants of the frequency of a pivotal vote. Although moderately close elections (winning margin of less than ten percentage points) are more common than landslides, the distribution of moderately close U.S. election margins is approximately uniform. The distribution of state legislature election margins is clearly monotonic, with closer margins more likely, except for very close and very lopsided elections. We find an inverse relationship between election size and the frequency of one vote margins in both data sets over a wide range of election sizes, with the exception of the smallest U.S. elections for which the frequency increases with election size.
|Date of creation:||Nov 2001|
|Date of revision:|
|Publication status:||published as Mulligan, Casey B and Charles G. Hunter. "The Empirical Frequency Of A Pivotal Vote," Public Choice, 2003, v116(1-2,Jul), 31-54.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: |
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Howard Margolis, 1977. "Probability of a tie election," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 135-138, September.
- Timothy J. Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1995.
"The Swing Voter's Curse,"
1064, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
- Glaeser, Edward L & Sacerdote, Bruce & Scheinkman, Jose A, 1996.
"Crime and Social Interactions,"
The Quarterly Journal of Economics,
MIT Press, vol. 111(2), pages 507-48, May.
- Edward L. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," NBER Working Papers 5026, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Edward E. Glaeser & Bruce Sacerdote & Jose A. Scheinkman, 1995. "Crime and Social Interactions," Harvard Institute of Economic Research Working Papers 1738, Harvard - Institute of Economic Research.
- Fischer, A J, 1999. " The Probability of Being Decisive," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 101(3-4), pages 267-83, December.
- Chamberlain, Gary & Rothschild, Michael, 1981. "A note on the probability of casting a decisive vote," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 25(1), pages 152-162, August.
When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:8590. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.
For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()
If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.