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When strategic uninformed abstention improves democratic accountability

Gento Kato

Journal of Theoretical Politics, 2020, vol. 32, issue 3, 366-388

Abstract: The recent development in formal studies of elections produced two sets of findings that question the custom to treat voter information as a prerequisite for competent democratic decision-making. One argues that uninformed abstention is an effective strategy to approximate informed electoral outcome, and another suggests that uninformed voters may motivate strategic political elites to improve accountability. This article bridges and extends these two findings by analyzing strategic incentives in the comprehensive voting model with abstention and its connection with electoral accountability. The proposed model offers a contextual explanation for two contrasting logic in uninformed abstention, delegation and discouragement, and shows that uninformed voting with abstention sometimes improves accountability. Furthermore, uninformed abstention is more effective in generating democratically preferred outcome under delegatory than discouraged context. The results make a significant addition to the existing accountability literature by providing a more general mechanism by which less voter information improves policy outcomes.

Keywords: abstention; accountability; information; uninformed voter; voter competence (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2020
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DOI: 10.1177/0951629820926699

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