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What makes voters turn out: the effects of polls and beliefs

Author

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  • Marina Agranov
  • Jacob K. Goeree
  • Julian Romero
  • Leeat Yariv

Abstract

We use laboratory experiments to test for one of the foundations of the rational voter paradigm - that voters respond to probabilities of being pivotal. We exploit a setup that entails stark theoretical effects of information concerning the preference distribution (as revealed through polls) on costly participation decisions. The data reveal several insights. First, voting propensity increases systematically with subjects' predictions of their preferred alternative's advantage. Consequently, pre-election polls do not exhibit the detrimental welfare effects that extant theoretical work predicts. They lead to more participation by the expected majority and generate more landslide elections. Finally, we investigate subjects' behavior in polls and identify when Bandwagon and Underdog Effects arise.

Suggested Citation

  • Marina Agranov & Jacob K. Goeree & Julian Romero & Leeat Yariv, 2012. "What makes voters turn out: the effects of polls and beliefs," ECON - Working Papers 067, Department of Economics - University of Zurich.
  • Handle: RePEc:zur:econwp:067
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Tilman Borgers, 2004. "Costly Voting," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, pages 57-66.
    2. Esteban Klor & Eyal Winter, 2007. "The welfare effects of public opinion polls," International Journal of Game Theory, Springer;Game Theory Society, vol. 35(3), pages 379-394, February.
    3. Steven Callander, 2007. "Bandwagons and Momentum in Sequential Voting," Review of Economic Studies, Oxford University Press, vol. 74(3), pages 653-684.
    4. Cason, Timothy N. & Mui, Vai-Lam, 2005. "Uncertainty and resistance to reform in laboratory participation games," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, pages 708-737.
    5. Thomas Palfrey & Howard Rosenthal, 1983. "A strategic calculus of voting," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 41(1), pages 7-53, January.
    6. Drew Fudenberg & David K. Levine, 1998. "The Theory of Learning in Games," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262061945, January.
    7. Taylor, Curtis & Yildirim, Huseyin, 2005. "Public Information and Electoral Bias," Working Papers 05-11, Duke University, Department of Economics.
    8. Melis Kartal, 2015. "Laboratory elections with endogenous turnout: proportional representation versus majoritarian rule," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(3), pages 366-384, September.
    9. Coate, Stephen & Conlin, Michael & Moro, Andrea, 2008. "The performance of pivotal-voter models in small-scale elections: Evidence from Texas liquor referenda," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, pages 582-596.
    10. Stephen Coate & Michael Conlin, 2004. "A Group Rule–Utilitarian Approach to Voter Turnout: Theory and Evidence," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 94(5), pages 1476-1504, December.
    11. Manfred Gartner, 1976. "Endogenous bandwagon and underdog effects in a rational choice model," Public Choice, Springer, vol. 25(1), pages 83-89, March.
    12. Jacob K. Goeree & Leeat Yariv, 2011. "An Experimental Study of Collective Deliberation," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 79(3), pages 893-921, May.
    13. Callander, Steven, 2008. "Majority rule when voters like to win," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 64(2), pages 393-420, November.
    14. Gerardi, Dino & Yariv, Leeat, 2007. "Deliberative voting," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 134(1), pages 317-338, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Degan, Arianna & Li, Ming, 2015. "Psychologically-based voting with uncertainty," European Journal of Political Economy, Elsevier, vol. 40(PB), pages 242-259.
    2. Thomas Fujiwara & Carlos Sanz, 2017. "Norms in Bargaining: Evidence from Government Formation in Spain," NBER Working Papers 24137, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Marco Faravelli & Kenan Kalayci & Carlos Pimienta, 2017. "Costly Voting: A Large-scale Real Effort Experiment," Discussion Papers 2017-16, School of Economics, The University of New South Wales.
    4. Alan Gerber & Mitchell Hoffman & John Morgan & Collin Raymond, 2017. "One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout," NBER Working Papers 23071, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    5. repec:kap:pubcho:v:172:y:2017:i:3:d:10.1007_s11127-017-0457-5 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Panova, Elena, 2015. "A passion for voting," Games and Economic Behavior, Elsevier, vol. 90(C), pages 44-65.
    7. Hans Gersbach & Akaki Mamageishvili & Oriol Tejada, 2017. "Assessment Voting in Large Electorates," Papers 1712.05470, arXiv.org, revised Feb 2018.
    8. Cesar Martinelli & Thomas R. Palfrey, 2017. "Communication and Information in Games of Collective Decision: A Survey of Experimental Results," Working Papers 1065, George Mason University, Interdisciplinary Center for Economic Science.
    9. Melis Kartal, 2015. "Laboratory elections with endogenous turnout: proportional representation versus majoritarian rule," Experimental Economics, Springer;Economic Science Association, vol. 18(3), pages 366-384, September.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Collective choice; polls; strategic voting;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D02 - Microeconomics - - General - - - Institutions: Design, Formation, Operations, and Impact
    • D72 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Political Processes: Rent-seeking, Lobbying, Elections, Legislatures, and Voting Behavior

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