Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-559fc8cf4f-67gxp Total loading time: 0.393 Render date: 2021-02-28T04:19:48.703Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "metricsAbstractViews": false, "figures": false, "newCiteModal": false, "newCitedByModal": true }

A Behavioral Model of Turnout

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 August 2003

JONATHAN BENDOR
Affiliation:
Walter and Elise Haas Professor of Political Economics and Organizations, Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305.
DANIEL DIERMEIER
Affiliation:
IBM Distinguished Professor of Regulation and Competitive Practice, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University, Evanston, IL 60201.
MICHAEL TING
Affiliation:
Assistant Professor of Political Science and Public Affairs, Department of Political Science and SIPA, Columbia University, New York, NY 10027 and Postdoctoral Fellow, CBRSS, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA 02138.

Abstract

The so-called “paradox of voting” is a major anomaly for rational choice theories of elections. If voting is costly and citizens are rational, then in large electrorates the expected turnout would be small, for if many people voted the chance of anyone being pivotal would be too small to make the act worthwhile. Yet many people do vote, even in large national elections. To address this puzzle we construct a model of adaptive rationality: Citizens learn by simple trial and error, repeating satisfactory actions and avoiding unsatisfactory ones. (Their aspiration levels, which code current payoffs as satisfactory or unsatisfactory, are also endogenous, themselves adjusting to experience.) Our main result is that agents who adapt in this manner turn out in substantial numbers even in large electorates and even if voting is costly for everyone.Standard conceptions of rational behavior do not explain why anyone bothers to vote in a mass election…. [Turnout is] the paradox that ate rational choice theory.

Fiorina (1990, 334)We would like to thank Stephen Ansolabehere, Sorin Antohi, Glenn Ellison, Dedre Gentner, Sunil Kumar, David Laitin, Tze Lai, Arthur Lupia, Elijah Millgram, Lincoln Moses, Scott Page, Tom Palfrey, John Patty, Paul Pfleiderer, Adam Simon, Joel Sobel, Carole Uhlaner, three anonymous referees, and the participants in the Political Economics seminar at the GSB, the Stanford–CalTech workshop, the UNC American Politics Research Group, the UCLA conference on Cognition, Emotion, and Rational Choice, panels at the Annual Meetings of the MPSA and the APSA, the Agent 2000 Workshop, the Seventh Annual Wallis Conference, the CMU–Pitt Colloquium Series, and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences seminar series for their helpful comments. This paper was written while Ting was at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and he thanks UNC's Department of Political Science for its support. It was revised while Bendor was a Fellow at the CASBS, and he is grateful for the Center's financial and intellectual support.

Type
ARTICLES
Copyright
© 2003 by the American Political Science Association

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below.

References

Baumeister Roy Bratslavsky Ellen Finkenauer Catrin Kathleen Vohs 2001 Bad Is Stronger than Good Review of General Psychology 5 4 323-70Google Scholar
Bendor Jonathan Diermeier Daniel Michael Ting 2001 A Behavioral Model of Turnout Stanford University Unpublished manuscript
Bendor Jonathan Diermeier Daniel Michael Ting 2002 The Empirical Content of Behavioral Models of Adaptation Presented at the 2002 Lake Arrowhead Conference on Computational Models in the Social Sciences
Bendor Jonathan Diermeier Daniel N.d. Michael Ting Recovering Behavioralism: Adaptively Rational Strategic Behavior with Endogenous Aspirations Computational Political Economy K. Kollman S. Page Cambridge MIT Press Forthcoming
Bendor Jonathan Mookherjee Dilip Debraj Ray 2001a Reinforcement Learning in Repeated Interaction Games Advances in Theoretical Economics <http://www.bepress.com/betje/advances/vol1/iss1/art3/> March 17, 2003
Bendor Jonathan Mookherjee Dilip Debraj Ray 2001b Adaptive Parties in Downsian Competition Presented at the Annual Meetings of the American Political Science Association San Franciso, CA
Bush Robert Mosteller Frederick 1955 Stochastic Models of Learning New York Wiley
Camerer Colin 2003 Behavioral Game Theory Princeton, NJ Princeton University Press
Cyert Richard March James 1963 A Behavioral Theory of the Firm Englewood Cliffs, NJ Prentice Hall
Deci Edward Koestner Richard Richard Ryan 1999 A Meta-Analytic Review of Experiments Examining the Effects of Extrinsic Rewards on Intrinsic Motivation Psychological Bulletin 125 627-68Google Scholar
Downs Anthony 1957 An Economic Theory of Democracy New York Harper & Row
Feddersen Timothy Sandroni Alvaro 2003 A Theory of Participation in Elections MEDS Department, Kellogg School of Management Northwestern University Mimeo
Ferejohn John Fiorina Morris 1974 The Paradox of Not Voting American Political Science Review 68 525-36Google Scholar
Fiorina Morris 1990 Information and Rationality in Elections Information and Democratic Processes John Ferejohn James Kuklinski Urbana University of Illinois Press
Friedman Jeffrey 1996 The Rational Choice Controversy New Haven, CT Yale University Press
Green Donald Shapiro Ian 1994 Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory New Haven, CT Yale University Press
Hansen Steven Palfrey Thomas Rosenthal Howard 1987 The Relationship between Constituency Size and Turnout: Using Game Theory to Estimate the Cost of Voting Public Choice 52 15 33Google Scholar
Kanazawa Satoshi 1998 A Possible Solution to the Paradox of Voter Turnout Journal of Politics 60 974-95Google Scholar
Kanazawa Satoshi 2000 A New Solution to the Collective Action Problem: The Paradox of Voter Turnout American Sociological Review 65 433-42Google Scholar
Kinder Donald 1998 Opinion and Action in the Realm of Politics The Handbook of Social Psychology Vol. II D. Gilbert Boston McGraw–Hill
Kollman Ken Miller John Page Scott 1992 Adaptive Parties in Spatial Elections American Political Science Review 86 929–38
Kuhn Thomas S. 1962 The Structure of Scientific Revolutions Chicago University of Chicago Press
Lakatos Imre 1970 Falsification and the Methodology of Scientific Research Programmes Criticism and the Growth of Knowledge I. Lakatos A. Musgrave Cambridge Cambridge University Press
Ledyard John 1984 The Pure Theory of Two Candidate Elections Public Choice 44 7 41Google Scholar
Lodge Milton McGraw Kathleen 1995 Political Judgment: Structure and Process Ann Arbor University of Michigan Press
Macy Michael 1990 Learning Theory and the Logic of Critical Mass American Sociological Review 55 809-26Google Scholar
Macy Michael 1991 Learning to Cooperate: Stochastic and Tacit Collusion in Social Exchange American Journal of Sociology 97 808-43Google Scholar
Macy Michael 1993 Backward-Looking Social Control American Sociological Review 58 819-36Google Scholar
Macy Michael Flache Andreas 2002 Learning Dynamics in Social Dilemmas Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 99 7229-36Google Scholar
March James 1994 A Primer on Decision Making: How Decisions Happen New York Free Press
Morton Rebecca B 1991 Groups in Rational Turnout Models American Journal of Political Science 35 3 758-76Google Scholar
Myerson Roger 1998 Population Uncertainty and Poisson Games International Journal of Game Theory 27 375-92Google Scholar
Nalebuff Barry Shachar Ron 1999 Follow the Leader: Theory and Evidence on Political Participation American Economic Review 89 3 525-49Google Scholar
Palfrey Thomas Rosenthal Howard 1983 A Strategic Calculus of Voting Public Choice 41 7 53Google Scholar
Palfrey Thomas Rosenthal Howard 1985 Voter Participation and Strategic Uncertainty American Political Science Review 79 62 78Google Scholar
Riker William Ordeshook Peter 1968 A Theory of the Calculus of Voting American Political Science Review 62 25 42Google Scholar
Schuessler Alexander 2000 A Logic of Expressive Choice Princeton, NJ Princeton University Press
Simon Herbert 1955 A Behavioral Model of Rational Choice Quarterly Journal of Economics 69 99 118Google Scholar
Simon Herbert 1990 Invariants of Human Behavior Annual Review of Psychology Vol. 41 M. Rosenzweig L. Porter Palo Alto, CA Annual Reviews
Sniderman Paul Brody Richard Tetlock Philip 1991 Reasons and Choice: Explorations in Political Psychology New York Cambridge University Press
Thorndike E. L. 1988 Animal Intelligence: An Experimental Study of the Associative Processes in Animals Psychological Review Monograph Supplement 2 8Google Scholar

Full text views

Full text views reflects PDF downloads, PDFs sent to Google Drive, Dropbox and Kindle and HTML full text views.

Total number of HTML views: 39
Total number of PDF views: 502 *
View data table for this chart

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 28th February 2021. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Send article to Kindle

To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

A Behavioral Model of Turnout
Available formats
×

Send article to Dropbox

To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

A Behavioral Model of Turnout
Available formats
×

Send article to Google Drive

To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your <service> account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

A Behavioral Model of Turnout
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response


Your details


Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *