One in a Million: A Field Experiment on Belief Formation and Pivotal Voting (Seminar)
Welcome to our research seminar with Collin Raymond. Raymond is the Ptarmigan Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Economics and St. Hugh's College at the University of Oxford.
One in a Million: A Field Experiment on Belief Formation and Pivotal Voting
Abstract: Instrumental voting models predict that turnout depends on the chance of casting a pivotal vote, which is typically extremely low in large elections. One potential way of reconciling theory with observed turnout is if voters significantly over-estimate the probability of being pivotal. Evidence from psychology and behavioral economics suggests that misperceptions of extremely unlikely events are common and subject to systematic biases, sometimes called the non-belief in the law of large numbers.
We provide a model of voting that accommodates biases and show that they inflate the perceived pivot probabilities, and hence turnout. We then test the model in a large-scale field experiment during the 2010 US gubernatorial elections where we elicited voter beliefs about a very close election before and after showing different polls. We find that voters massively inflate pivot probabilities and that subjects update their beliefs in response to new information. However, the decision to vote is not affected by beliefs about pivotality.