IDEAS home Printed from
MyIDEAS: Login to save this paper or follow this series

Follow The Leader: Theory And Evidence On Political Participation

  • Barry Nalebuff


    (School of Management)

  • Roni Shachar


    (The Eitan Berglas School of Economics)

This paper presents an empirical and theoretical investigation of the strategic components to political participation. Using state-by-state voting data for the eleven U.S. Presidential elections, 1948-1988, we first show that voter turnout is a positive function of predicted closeness and a negative function of the voting population size. We then develop a follow-the-leader model of political participation to explain and to impose structure on these empirical regularities. In the model, leaders expend effort according to their chance of being pivotal, which depends on the expected closeness of the race (at both the state and national levels), its unpredictability, the number of eligible voters, and the rationally anticipated turnout in response to effort by leaders. Returning to the data with structural estimation shows that closeness counts: a one percent increase in the predicted closeness at the state level increases turnout by 0.34 percent. Through simulations, we calculate the chance that each state is pivotal in the national elections. This national closeness effect is significant in explaining effort and participation. Winning the national election is worth thirteen times the value of winning the state. However, since the average chance of a state being pivotal is small, in 96 percent of the observations the value of winning the state had a larger net impact on motivating effort. As a test of the model, we compare our effort variable with National Election Studies data on the proportion of individuals contacted by campaign representatives. Although our effort variable is inferred from the equilibrium model and thus is estimated without using direct data on campaign effort levels, it is significantly correlated with party contact.

If you experience problems downloading a file, check if you have the proper application to view it first. In case of further problems read the IDEAS help page. Note that these files are not on the IDEAS site. Please be patient as the files may be large.

File URL:
Download Restriction: no

Paper provided by Yale School of Management in its series Yale School of Management Working Papers with number ysm57.

in new window

Date of creation: 25 Jun 1997
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:ysm57
Contact details of provider: Web page:

More information through EDIRC

No references listed on IDEAS
You can help add them by filling out this form.

This item is featured on the following reading lists or Wikipedia pages:

  1. Follow the Leader: Theory and Evidence on Political Participation (AER 1999) in ReplicationWiki

When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:ysm:somwrk:ysm57. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: ()

If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

If references are entirely missing, you can add them using this form.

If the full references list an item that is present in RePEc, but the system did not link to it, you can help with this form.

If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

This information is provided to you by IDEAS at the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis using RePEc data.