Forecasting Elections: Voter Intentions Versus Expectations

37 Pages Posted: 14 Jul 2011 Last revised: 17 Oct 2011

See all articles by David M. Rothschild

David M. Rothschild

Microsoft Research - NYC

Justin Wolfers

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics; University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy; The University of Sydney - Discipline of Economics; Brookings Institution - Economic Studies Program; Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); Kiel Institute for the World Economy

Date Written: July 12, 2011

Abstract

Most pollsters base their election projections off questions of voter intentions, which ask “If the election were held today, who would you vote for?” By contrast, we probe the value of questions probing voters’ expectations, which typically ask: “Regardless of who you plan to vote for, who do you think will win the upcoming election?” We demonstrate that polls of voter expectations yield consistently more accurate forecasts than polls of voter intentions. A small-scale structural model reveals that this is because we are polling from a broader information set, and voters respond as if they had polled ten of their friends. This model also provides a rational interpretation for why respondents’ forecasts are correlated with their expectations. We use our structural model to extract accurate election forecasts from non-random samples.

Keywords: Polling, information aggregation, belief heterogeneity

JEL Classification: C53, D03, D8

Suggested Citation

Rothschild, David M. and Wolfers, Justin, Forecasting Elections: Voter Intentions Versus Expectations (July 12, 2011). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1884644 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1884644

David M. Rothschild

Microsoft Research - NYC ( email )

641 6th Ave., 7th Floor
New York, NY 10011
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Justin Wolfers (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Economics ( email )

611 Tappan Street
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1220
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HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy ( email )

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Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States
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HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

The University of Sydney - Discipline of Economics ( email )

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Brookings Institution - Economic Studies Program ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://www.nber.org/~jwolfers

Peter G. Peterson Institute for International Economics ( email )

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National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

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IZA Institute of Labor Economics

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Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

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CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute) ( email )

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Kiel Institute for the World Economy ( email )

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Kiel, D-24100
Germany

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