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Compulsory versus Voluntary Voting: An Experimental Study

  • John Duffy
  • Sourav Bhattacharya
  • Sun-Tak Kim

We report on an experiment comparing compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in a voting game with common preferences. Rational choice theory predicts sharp differences in voter behavior between these two institutions. If voting is compulsory, then voters may find it rational to vote insincerely, i.e., against their private information. If voting is voluntary so that abstention is allowed, then sincere voting in accordance with a voter's private information is always rational while participation may become strategic. We find strong support for these theoretical predictions in our experimental data. Moreover, voters adapt their decisions to the voting institution in place in such a way as to make the group decision accuracy differences between the two voting institutions negligible. The latter finding may serve to rationalize the co-existence of compulsory and voluntary voting institutions in nature.

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File URL: http://www.ewi-ssl.pitt.edu/econ/files/faculty/wp/130809_wp_DuffyJohn_vve_GEB_rev081013a.pdf
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Paper provided by University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics in its series Working Papers with number 492.

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Date of creation: May 2012
Date of revision: Aug 2013
Handle: RePEc:pit:wpaper:492
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  9. Dino Gerardi & Margaret A. McConnell & Julian Romero & Leeat Yariv, 2009. "Get Out the (Costly) Vote: Institutional Design for Greater Participation," Carlo Alberto Notebooks 121, Collegio Carlo Alberto.
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  18. John Duffy & Margit Tavits, 2006. "Beliefs and Voting Decisions: A Test of the Pivotal Voter Model," Working Papers 273, University of Pittsburgh, Department of Economics, revised May 2007.
  19. Krishna, Vijay & Morgan, John, 2012. "Voluntary voting: Costs and benefits," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 147(6), pages 2083-2123.
  20. Arthur Schram & John Sonnemans, 2001. "Voter Turnout as a Participation Game: An Experimental Investigation," Levine's Working Paper Archive 563824000000000033, David K. Levine.
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