« Back to Results

Economics of Voting

Paper Session

Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018 10:15 AM - 12:15 PM

Pennsylvania Convention Center, 202-A
Hosted By: American Economic Association
  • Chair: Steven Sprick Schuster, Colgate University

A Rationale for Unanimity in Committees: Information Aggregation With Idiosyncratic Payoffs and Deliberation

Justin Valasek
WZB Berlin
Yves Breitmoser
Humboldt University


Despite the fact that existing theoretical and experimental studies have established that unanimity is a uniquely poor decision rule for promoting information aggregation, unanimity is frequently used in committees making decisions on behalf of society. In this paper, we show that unanimity can facilitate truthful communication and efficient information aggregation in a setting where committee members are exposed to idiosyncratic payoffs that condition on their individual vote. That is, under majority, idiosyncratic payoffs introduce a free-rider problem that eliminates equilibria with optimal information aggregation. However, this free-rider problem is mitigated under unanimity, due to the fact that responsibility for the committee’s decision is uniformly enforced across all committee members. Our experimental results confirm that idiosyncratic payoffs cause strategic communication and sub-optimal decisions under majority, and we present the first evidence of an experimental setting where unanimity outperforms majority in terms of information aggregation. Together, this suggests a novel rationale for the use of unanimity in committees such as criminal-trial juries, where individuals may be exposed to idiosyncratic payoffs such as guilt for voting to not convict an individual that goes on to commit a serious crime.

Stimulating the Vote: ARRA Road Spending and Vote Share

Emiliano Huet-Vaughn


This paper estimates the impact of public good spending on voting behavior in the United States, using a quasi-experimental design and the distribution of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA)road improvement projects across the state of New Jersey. I find an approximate 1.5 percentage point increase in the presidential vote share for the Democratic Party - largely responsible for ARRA's passage and widely perceived to be the more "tax-and-spend" friendly party - in areas close to highway and bridge improvement expenditures. I find no evidence of an effect on turnout. Results are consistent with two alternative mechanisms: one, a salience mechanism whereby spending and associated "funded-by" signage affect voter underlying political preferences; the other, a possible political multiplier effect through which stimulus spending improves local economic outcomes, making voters more willing to support incumbents. I present evidence at odds with the later explanation.

When Collective Ignorance Is Bliss: Theory and Experiment on Voting for Learning

Boris Ginzburg
University Carlos III of Madrid
Jose Alberto Guerra Sr.
University of the Andes


When do groups and societies choose to be uninformed? We study a committee that needs to vote on a reform which will give every member a private state-dependent payoff. The committee can vote to learn the state at no cost. We show that the committee votes not to learn the state whenever independent voters are more fractionalised than partisans. We also run a simple laboratory experiment that confirms this result. This implies that divided societies tend to seek less information, to make decisions in haste, and to show less support for institutions that make the public more informed.

Restrictive Voting Laws, Voter Turnout, and Partisan Vote Composition: Evidence From Ohio

Ethan Kaplan
University of Maryland-College Park
Haishan Yuan
University of Queensland


We estimate effects of expansion and contraction in early voting availability by using two homogenization laws from the State of Ohio, one in 2012 and the other in 2014, which forced some counties to dramatically expand and others to dramatically contract early voting. Using individual voter registration data, we look at the impact of changes in early voting by comparing individuals who live within the same 1 square mile block but in different counties. We find substantial positive impacts of early voting on turnout equal to 0.19 percentage points of additional turnout per additional early voting day. We find little effect on those below 25 and those over 60 suggesting that work and child-care are important determinants of turnout. Effects are larger on those who have voted in Democratic primaries than those who have voted in Republican primaries. The effect on Independents is small in midterm elections but approximately 0.5 percent per day of early voting in presidential elections. We use our estimates to simulate impacts on national elections and find that a federal mandate on early voting to the level of Minnesota would have altered the outcomes of the 2016 presidential election and majority control of the United States Senate. Our results suggest that early voting increases turnout, tilts the electorate towards the Democratic Party, and reduces the polarization of the electorate.
JEL Classifications
  • D7 - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making