Abstract

http://ssrn.com/abstract=1324318
 
 

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The Blind Leading the Blind: Who Gets Polling Information and Does it Improve Decisions?


Cheryl Boudreau


University of California, Davis

Mathew D. McCubbins


Duke University

July 22, 2009


Abstract:     
We analyze whether and when polls help citizens to improve their decisions. Specifically, we use experiments to investigate 1) whether and when citizens are willing to obtain polls and 2) whether and when polls help citizens to make better choices than they would have made on their own. We find that citizens are more likely to obtain polls when the decisions they must make are difficult and when they are unsophisticated. Ironically, when the decisions are difficult, the pollees are also uninformed and, therefore, do not provide useful information. We also find that when polls indicate the welfare-improving choice, citizens are able to improve their decisions. However, when polls indicate a choice that will make citizens worse off, citizens make worse decisions than they would have made on their own. These results hold regardless of whether the majority in favor of one option over the other is small or large.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: poll, sophistication, voter, decision-making, heuristic, cue, experiment, majority, trust

JEL Classification: C90, C91, D72, D81, D83

working papers series





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Date posted: January 8, 2009 ; Last revised: July 22, 2009

Suggested Citation

Boudreau, Cheryl and McCubbins, Mathew D., The Blind Leading the Blind: Who Gets Polling Information and Does it Improve Decisions? (July 22, 2009). Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1324318 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1324318

Contact Information

Cheryl Boudreau (Contact Author)
University of California, Davis ( email )
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616
United States
Mathew D. McCubbins
Duke University ( email )
Department of Political Science
208 Gross Hall, 140 Science Drive
Durham, NC 27708
United States
(213) 973-7538 (Phone)
(213) 973-3623 (Fax)
HOME PAGE: http://mccubbins.us
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