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Public Opinion Polls, Voter Turnout, and Welfare: An Experimental Study

We experimentally study the impact of public opinion poll releases on voter turnout and welfare in a participation game. We find higher turnout rates when polls inform the electorate about the levels of support for various candidates than when polls are prohibited. Distinguishing between allied and floating voters, our data show that this increase in turnout is entirely due to floating voters. Very high turnout is observed when polls indicate equal support levels for the candidates. This has negative consequences for welfare. Though in aggregate social welfare is hardly affected, majorities benefit more often from polls than minorities. Finally, our comparative static results are better predicted by quantal response (logit) equilibrium than by Bayesian Nash equilibrium.

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Paper provided by University of Siena in its series Labsi Experimental Economics Laboratory University of Siena with number 014.

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Date of creation: Sep 2007
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Handle: RePEc:usi:labsit:014
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  1. Schram, Arthur & Sonnemans, Joep, 1996. "Voter Turnout as a Participation Game: An Experimental Investigation," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 25(3), pages 385-406.
  2. McKelvey, Richard D. & Ordeshook, Peter C., 1987. "Elections with limited information: A multidimensional model," Mathematical Social Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 14(1), pages 77-99, August.
  3. Gary Bornstein & Tamar Kugler & Shmuel Zamir, 2003. "One Team Must Win, the Other Need Only Not Lose: An Experimental Study of an Asymmetric Participation Game," Discussion Paper Series dp317, The Federmann Center for the Study of Rationality, the Hebrew University, Jerusalem.
  4. Mailath George J. & Matthews Steven A. & Sekiguchi Tadashi, 2002. "Private Strategies in Finitely Repeated Games with Imperfect Public Monitoring," The B.E. Journal of Theoretical Economics, De Gruyter, vol. 2(1), pages 1-23, June.
  5. Lohmann, Susanne, 1994. "Information Aggregation through Costly Political Action," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(3), pages 518-30, June.
  6. John Ledyard, 1984. "The pure theory of large two-candidate elections," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 7-41, January.
  7. Timothy J. Feddersen & Wolfgang Pesendorfer, 1995. "The Swing Voter's Curse," Discussion Papers 1064, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  8. Tilman Börgers, 2001. "Costly Voting," Levine's Working Paper Archive 625018000000000232, David K. Levine.
  9. Roger B. Myerson, 1998. "Population uncertainty and Poisson games," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 375-392.
  10. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
  11. Vai-Lam Mui & Timothy N. Cason, 2004. "Uncertainty and Resistance to Reform in Laboratory Participation Games," Econometric Society 2004 Australasian Meetings 1, Econometric Society.
  12. Esteban F. Klory & Eyal Winter, 2006. "On Public Opinion Polls and Voters' Turnout," Levine's Working Paper Archive 321307000000000451, David K. Levine.
  13. Brown, Lloyd B. & Chappell Jr., Henry W., 1999. "Forecasting presidential elections using history and polls," International Journal of Forecasting, Elsevier, vol. 15(2), pages 127-135, April.
  14. Mutsusaka, J.G. & Palda, F., 1991. "The Downsian Voter Meets the Ecological Fallacy," Papers 91-30, Southern California - School of Business Administration.
  15. Charles Zech, 1975. "Leibenstein's bandwagon effect as applied to voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 21(1), pages 117-122, March.
  16. Timothy Feddersen & Alvaro Sandroni, 2006. "A Theory of Participation in Elections," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 96(4), pages 1271-1282, September.
  17. 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.
  18. Jacob Goeree & Jens Großer, 2007. "Welfare Reducing Polls," Economic Theory, Springer, vol. 31(1), pages 51-68, April.
  19. McKelvey, Richard D. & Ordeshook, Peter C., 1985. "Elections with limited information: A fulfilled expectations model using contemporaneous poll and endorsement data as information sources," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 36(1), pages 55-85, June.
  20. Colin M. Campbell, 1999. "Large Electorates and Decisive Minorities," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 107(6), pages 1199-1217, December.
  21. Richard McKelvey & Peter Ordeshook, 1984. "Rational expectations in elections: some experimental results based on a multidimensional model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 44(1), pages 61-102, January.
  22. Roger B. Myerson & Robert J. Weber, 1988. "A Theory of Voting Equilibria," Discussion Papers 782, Northwestern University, Center for Mathematical Studies in Economics and Management Science.
  23. Kenneth Brown & Charles Zech, 1973. "Welfare effects of announcing election forecasts," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 14(1), pages 117-123, March.
  24. McKelvey Richard D. & Palfrey Thomas R., 1995. "Quantal Response Equilibria for Normal Form Games," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 10(1), pages 6-38, July.
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