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Bounded Rationality and Voting Decisions Exploring a 160-year Period

  • David Stadelmann


    (University of Fribourg)

  • Benno Torgler



Using a natural voting experiment in Switzerland that encompasses a 160-year period (1848–2009), we investigate whether a higher level of complexity leads to increased reliance on expert knowledge. We find that when more referenda are held on the same day, constituents are more likely to refer to parliamentary recommendations in making their decisions. This finding holds true even when we narrow our focus to referenda with a relatively lower voter turnout on days on which more than one referendum was held. We also show that when constituents face a higher level of complexity, they listen to parliament rather than interest groups.

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Paper provided by School of Economics and Finance, Queensland University of Technology in its series School of Economics and Finance Discussion Papers and Working Papers Series with number 287.

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Length: 33 pages
Date of creation: 25 Jul 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:qut:dpaper:287
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  1. Heiner, Ronald A, 1983. "The Origin of Predictable Behavior," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 73(4), pages 560-95, September.
  2. John Conlisk, 1996. "Why Bounded Rationality?," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 34(2), pages 669-700, June.
  3. Frey, Bruno S, 1994. "Direct Democracy: Politico-economic Lessons from Swiss Experience," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 338-42, May.
  4. David Stadelmann & Marco Portmann & Reiner Eichenberger, 2011. "Quantifying Parliamentary Representation of Constituents' Preferences with Quasi-Experimental Data," CREMA Working Paper Series 2011-02, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  5. Barry Nalebuff & Roni Shachar, 1997. "Follow The Leader: Theory And Evidence On Political Participation," Yale School of Management Working Papers ysm57, Yale School of Management.
  6. Hodgson, Geoffrey M, 1997. "The Ubiquity of Habits and Rules," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 21(6), pages 663-84, November.
  7. Marco Portmann & David Stadelmann & Reiner Eichenberger, 2010. "District Magnitude and Representation of the Majority?s Preferences: Quasi-Experimental Evidence from Popular and Parliamentary Votes," CREMA Working Paper Series 2010-13, Center for Research in Economics, Management and the Arts (CREMA).
  8. Rebecca Morton & Jean-Robert Tyran, 2008. "Let the Experts Decide? Asymmetric Information, Abstention, and Coordination in Standing Committees," Discussion Papers 08-25, University of Copenhagen. Department of Economics.
  9. Herbert A. Simon, 1996. "The Sciences of the Artificial, 3rd Edition," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262691914, December.
  10. Daniel Kahneman, 2003. "Maps of Bounded Rationality: Psychology for Behavioral Economics," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 93(5), pages 1449-1475, December.
  11. Reiner Eichenberger & David Stadelmann & Marco Portmann, 2012. "A comparative analysis of the voting behavior of constituents and their representatives for public debts," Constitutional Political Economy, Springer, vol. 23(3), pages 244-260, September.
  12. W. Crain & Donald Leavens & Lynn Abbot, 1987. "Voting and not voting at the same time," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 53(3), pages 221-229, January.
  13. Simon, Herbert A, 1978. "Rationality as Process and as Product of Thought," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 68(2), pages 1-16, May.
  14. Anthony Downs, 1957. "An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 65, pages 135.
  15. Herbert Simon, 2000. "Bounded rationality in social science: Today and tomorrow," Mind & Society: Cognitive Studies in Economics and Social Sciences, Springer;Fondazione Rosselli, vol. 1(1), pages 25-39, March.
  16. Ai, Chunrong & Norton, Edward C., 2003. "Interaction terms in logit and probit models," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 80(1), pages 123-129, July.
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