Indecision Theory: Quality of Information and Voting Behavior

Caltech Social Science Working Paper No. 1106

35 Pages Posted: 16 Feb 2001

See all articles by Paolo Ghirardato

Paolo Ghirardato

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Jonathan N. Katz

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences

Date Written: March 2002

Abstract

In this paper we show how to incorporate quality of information into a model of voting behavior. We do so in the context of the turnout decision of instrumentally rational voters who differ in their quality of information, which we refer to as ambiguity. Ambiguity is reflected by the fact that the voter's beliefs are given by a set of probabilities, each of which represents in the voter's mind a different possible scenario. We show that in most elections voters who satisfy the Bayesian model do not strictly prefer abstaining over voting for one of the candidates. In contrast, a voter who is averse to ambiguity considers abstention strictly optimal when the candidates' policy positions are both ambiguous and they are "ambiguity complements". Abstaining is preferred since it is tantamount to mixing the prospects embodied by the two candidates, thus enabling the voter to "hedge" the candidates' ambiguity.

Keywords: Selective Abstention, Multiple Elections, Ambiguity Aversion, Ambiguity Hedging

JEL Classification: D72, D81

Suggested Citation

Ghirardato, Paolo and Katz, Jonathan N., Indecision Theory: Quality of Information and Voting Behavior (March 2002). Caltech Social Science Working Paper No. 1106, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=260580 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.260580

Paolo Ghirardato (Contact Author)

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )

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Jonathan N. Katz

California Institute of Technology - Division of the Humanities and Social Sciences ( email )

1200 East California Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91125
United States
626-395-4191 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://jkatz.caltech.edu

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