School of Economics and Finance

No. 798: The Marginal Voter's Curse

Helios Herrera , University of Warwick
Aniol Llorente-Saguer , Queen Mary University of London
Joseph C. McMurray , Brigham Young University

June 28, 2016

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This paper proposes a rational model of voter participation by generalizing a common-value model of costless voting to include not just pivotal voting but also marginal voting incentives. A new strategic incentive for abstention arises in that case, to avoid the marginal voter's curse of pushing the policy outcome in the wrong direction. The marginal voter's curse presents a larger disincentive for voting than the swing voter's curse. Moreover, marginal motivations are shown to dominate pivotal motivations in large elections. Model predictions are confirmed in a laboratory experiment and applied in a comparative analysis of electoral rules.

J.E.L classification codes: C72, C92, D70

Keywords:Turnout, Information aggregation, Underdog effect, Experiment