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The paradox of information and voter turnout

Joseph McMurray ()

Public Choice, 2015, vol. 165, issue 1, 13-23

Abstract: The most prominent explanation for the paradox of voter turnout is that citizens are willing to bear the cost of voting because they perceive a benefit (e.g., fulfilling a civic duty or expressing themselves) that is independent of the election outcome. However, a separate literature highlights the empirical importance of information for voter participation, and existing explanations for this are that uninformed citizens either expect smaller benefits from voting, or defer strategically to peers who know more. This paper simply points out that, while either of these theories offers a plausible explanation for the importance of information, neither is robust if the motivation for voting is unrelated to the election outcome. This is because citizens with positive net voting costs should abstain, no matter how well informed, while those with negative net voting costs should vote, no matter how poorly informed. Thus, the purported resolution to the turnout paradox raises a new paradox of information and voter turnout. Intuitively, the quality of a vote should matter only if the vote is somehow instrumental, suggesting that future work should continue to explore instrumental rationales for voting. Copyright Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Keywords: Voting paradox; Elections; Information; Turnout; Abstention; Costly voting; Swing voter’s curse; D72; D82 (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2015
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