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An Experiment on Coordination in Multi-Candidate Elections: The Importance of Polls and Election Histories

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  • Robert Forsythe

Abstract

Do polls simply measure intended voter behavior or can they affect it and, thus, change election outcomes? Do candidate ballot positions or the results of previous elections affect voter behavior? We conduct several series of experimental, three-candidate elections and use the data to provide answers to these questions. In these elections, we pay subjects conditionally on election outcomes to create electorate with publicly known preferences. A majority (but less than two-thirds) of the voters are split in their preferences between two similar candidates, while a minority (but plurality) favor a third, dissimilar candidate. If all voters vote sincerely, the third candidate--a Condorcet loser--would win the elections. We find that pre-election polls significantly reduce the frequency with which the Condorcet loser wins. Further, the winning candidate is usually the majority candidate who is listed first on the poll and election ballots. The evidence also shows that a shared history enable majority voters to coordinate on one of their favored candidates in sequences of identical elections. With polls, majority-preferred candidates often alternated as election winners.

Suggested Citation

  • Robert Forsythe, 1991. "An Experiment on Coordination in Multi-Candidate Elections: The Importance of Polls and Election Histories," Discussion Papers 962, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  • Handle: RePEc:nwu:cmsems:962
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    Cited by:

    1. Antoine Loeper & Jakub Steiner & Colin Stewart, 2014. "Influential Opinion Leaders," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 124(581), pages 1147-1167, December.
    2. Arnaud Dellis & Sean D’Evelyn & Katerina Sherstyuk, 2011. "Multiple votes, ballot truncation and the two-party system: an experiment," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 37(2), pages 171-200, July.
    3. Christoph Engel & Sebastian Kube & Michael Kurschilgen, 2011. "Can we manage first impressions in cooperation problems? An experiment," Discussion Paper Series of the Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods 2011_05, Max Planck Institute for Research on Collective Goods, revised May 2014.
    4. Meffert, Michael F. & Gschwend, Thomas, 2008. "Strategic Voting in Multiparty Systems: A Group Experiment," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 08-10, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    5. Thomas A. Rietz, 1993. "Strategic Behavior in Multi-Alternative Elections: A Review of Some Experimental Evidence," Discussion Papers 1026, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
    6. Meffert, Michael F. & Gschwend, Thomas, 2007. "Strategic Voting under Proportional Representation and Coalition Governments: A Simulation and Laboratory Experiment," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 07-55, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    7. Richard Potthoff, 2011. "Condorcet Polling," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 148(1), pages 67-86, July.
    8. Gschwend, Thomas, 2004. "Ticket-Splitting and Strategic Voting," Sonderforschungsbereich 504 Publications 05-06, Sonderforschungsbereich 504, Universität Mannheim;Sonderforschungsbereich 504, University of Mannheim.
    9. André Blais & Jean-François Laslier & Nicolas Sauger & Karine Van Der Straeten, 2008. "Sincere, strategic, and heuristic voting under four election rules: An experimental study," Working Papers hal-00335046, HAL.

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