The Problem of the Divided Majority: Preference Aggregation Under Uncertainty
25 Pages Posted: 4 Sep 2014 Last revised: 22 Sep 2015
Date Written: September 21, 2015
This paper reports on the results of a series of experimental laboratory elections. The novelty of the design allows me to study both coordination failures and coordination efficiency in a repeated-game, divided majority setting. I assess and compare the performance of three voting mechanisms, Approval Voting, Borda Count, and Plurality Voting under two information structures. Voters either know the preference structure in the electorate or hold no information regarding other voters' preferences. With enough experience, the majority is frequently able to solve the coordination problem and coordination failure rates are fairly low across voting methods and information structures. The multi-vote systems Approval Voting and Borda Count dissolve information imperfections effectively and allow the majority to coordinate efficiently, independently of the underlying information structure. The level of coordination efficiency under Plurality Voting crucially depends on available information. When voters are uninformed about the preference structure in the electorate, the majority frequently fails to implement the efficient outcome. This low level of coordination efficiency is costly and decreases total welfare.
Keywords: Divided Majority, Approval Voting, Borda Count, Plurality Voting, Uncertainty
JEL Classification: D70, D71, D80
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation