On the Extent of Strategic Voting
Social scientists have long speculated about individuals' tendencies to misrepresent their preferences in order to affect the outcome of social choice mechanisms. The fact that preference orderings are generally unobserved, however, has made it very difficult to document strategic behavior empirically. Exploiting the incentive structure of Germany's voting system to solve the fundamental identification problem, this paper estimates the extent of strategic voting in large, real-world elections. The evidence indicates that approximately 35% of voters abandon their most preferred candidate if she is not in contention for victory. As predicted by theory, tactical behavior has a non-trivial impact on individual races. Yet, as one aggregates across districts, these distortions partially offset each other, resulting in considerably more modest effects on the overall distribution of seats.
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