One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout

54 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2017

See all articles by Alan Gerber

Alan Gerber

Yale University - Department of Political Science; Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Mitchell Hoffman

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

John Morgan

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group

Collin Raymond

Amherst College

Date Written: January 2017

Abstract

A common feature of many models of voter turnout is that increasing the perceived closeness of the election should increase voter turnout. However, cleanly testing this prediction is difficult and little is known about voter beliefs regarding the closeness of a given race. We conduct a field experiment during the 2010 US gubernatorial elections where we elicit voter beliefs about the closeness of the election before and after showing different polls, which, depending on treatment, indicate a close race or a not close race. We find that subjects update their beliefs in response to new information, but systematically overestimate the probability of a very close election. However, the decision to vote is unaffected by beliefs about the closeness of the election. A follow-up field experiment, conducted during the 2014 gubernatorial elections but at much larger scale, also points to little relationship between poll information about closeness and voter turnout.

Suggested Citation

Gerber, Alan and Hoffman, Mitchell and Morgan, John and Raymond, Collin, One in a Million: Field Experiments on Perceived Closeness of the Election and Voter Turnout (January 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23071. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2903738

Alan Gerber (Contact Author)

Yale University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Box 208269
New Haven, DC 06520-8269
United States
203-432-5232 (Phone)

Yale University - Cowles Foundation

Box 208281
New Haven, CT 06520-8281
United States

Mitchell Hoffman

University of Toronto - Rotman School of Management ( email )

105 St. George Street
Toronto, Ontario M5S 3E6 M5S1S4
Canada

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

John Morgan

University of California, Berkeley - Economic Analysis & Policy Group ( email )

Berkeley, CA 94720
United States
510-642-2669 (Phone)
810-885-5959 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://faculty.haas.berkeley.edu/rjmorgan/

Collin Raymond

Amherst College ( email )

P.O. Box 5000
Amherst, MA 01002-5000
United States

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