Pocketbook Voting, Social Preferences, and Expressive Motives in Referenda

Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Paper No. 312

67 Pages Posted: 9 May 2017

See all articles by Johannes Meya

Johannes Meya

University of Goettingen (Göttingen)

Panu Poutvaara

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Economics; ifo Institut - Leibniz-Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung an der Universitaet Muenchen e.V.; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute); CReAM; IZA Institute of Labor Economics

Robert Schwager

University of Goettingen (Göttingen)

Date Written: May 6, 2017

Abstract

We develop and test a theory of voting and turnout decisions that integrates self-interest, social preferences, and expressive motives. Our model implies that if pocketbook benefits are relevant, voters either perceive their impact on the outcome to be non-negligible, or expressive motivations do not play a role in the decision on how to vote. Conversely, if own pocketbook benefits do not explain voting, then voting is expressive. If the perceived probability of being pivotal is non-negligible, social preferences and expressive concerns are observationally equivalent. Our empirical analysis studies collective choices which are analogous to decisions on local public goods. We consider referenda among university students on whether to collectively purchase deeply discounted flat rate tickets for public transportation and cultural amenities. Individual us- age data allow quantifying the monetary benefits associated with each ticket. As voters had precise information on the individual costs and benefits, our setting comprises a real-world laboratory of direct democracy. We find that monetary benefits strongly influence participation and voting. However, social or expressive motives, such as stated altruism, environmental concerns, and paternalism, are decisive for a significant minority. Our results rule out purely expressive voting and imply that a substantial share of the electorate perceived their impact on the outcome to be non-negligible.

Keywords: Pocketbook Voting, Social Preferences, Expressive Voting, Instrumental Voting, Public Goods, Altruism, Referendum

JEL Classification: D72, H41, D64

Suggested Citation

Meya, Johannes and Poutvaara, Panu and Schwager, Robert, Pocketbook Voting, Social Preferences, and Expressive Motives in Referenda (May 6, 2017). Center for European, Governance and Economic Development Research Paper No. 312, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2964342 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2964342

Johannes Meya (Contact Author)

University of Goettingen (Göttingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

Panu Poutvaara

Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU) - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Ludwigstrasse 28
Munich, D-80539
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.iiv.vwl.uni-muenchen.de/index.html

ifo Institut - Leibniz-Institut fuer Wirtschaftsforschung an der Universitaet Muenchen e.V. ( email )

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, 01069
Germany
00498992241372 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://https://www.ifo.de/poutvaara-p

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

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

CReAM ( email )

Drayton House
30 Gordon Street
London, WC1H 0AX
United Kingdom

IZA Institute of Labor Economics ( email )

P.O. Box 7240
Bonn, D-53072
Germany

HOME PAGE: http://www.iza.org/en/webcontent/personnel/photos/index_html?key=1501

Robert Schwager

University of Goettingen (Göttingen) ( email )

Platz der Gottinger Sieben 3
Gottingen, D-37073
Germany

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