Voting to Tell Others

66 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2014

See all articles by Stefano DellaVigna

Stefano DellaVigna

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Ulrike Malmendier

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics; University of California, Berkeley - Haas School of Business; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER); Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR); Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA)

Gautam Rao

University of California, Berkeley

Date Written: January 2014

Abstract

Why do people vote? We argue that social image plays a significant role in explaining turnout: people vote because others will ask. The expectation of being asked motivates turnout if individuals derive pride from telling others that they voted, or feel shame from admitting that they did not vote, provided that lying is costly. We design a field experiment to estimate the effect of social image concerns on voting. In a door-to-door survey about election turnout, we experimentally vary (i) the informational content and use of a flyer pre-announcing the survey, (ii) the duration and payment for the survey, and (iii) the incentives to lie about past voting. Our estimates suggest significant social image concerns. For a plausible range of lying costs, we estimate the monetary value of voting `because others will ask' to be in the range of $5-$15 for the 2010 Congressional election. In a complementary get-out-the-vote experiment, we inform potential voters before the election that we will ask them later whether they voted. We find suggestive evidence that the treatment increases turnout.

Suggested Citation

DellaVigna, Stefano and List, John A. and Malmendier, Ulrike and Rao, Gautam, Voting to Tell Others (January 2014). NBER Working Paper No. w19832, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2384291

Stefano DellaVigna (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

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John A. List

University of Chicago - Department of Economics ( email )

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Ulrike Malmendier

University of California, Berkeley - Department of Economics ( email )

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Gautam Rao

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

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