Altruism, Noise, and the Paradox of Voter Turnout: An Experimental Study
AbstractThis paper addresses the paradox of voter turnout, wherein observed voting participation rates are far greater than what rational choice theory would predict. Voters face multiple voting choices, stochastic voting costs, and candidates offering different economic platforms. A combination of two approaches attempts to resolve this paradox: quantal response equilibrium (QRE) analysis, which introduces noise into the decision-making process, and the possibility of ethical (altruism-motivated) voting. A series of laboratory experiments empirically tests the predictions of the resulting model. Participants in the experiments are also given opportunities for communicating online with their immediate neighbors, in order to enhance the chances that subjects would realize the possibility of ethical voting. The results show that ethical voting occurs but gains momentum only in the presence of a vocal advocate and even then it mostly dissipated by the second half of the session. The QRE-based model was able to explain some but not all of the overvoting that was observed, relative to the Nash equilibrium prediction. There is evidence to suggest that communication via the chat feature generated some of the voting and also some of the ethical voting.