Behavioral Voters in a Decentralized Democracy
93 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2020 Last revised: 1 Mar 2022
Date Written: July 22, 2021
Voters in decentralized democracies make voting decisions in multiple elections across tiers, often on the same day. Theories of decentralization implicitly presume that they have sufficient cognitive capacity to acquire and process information to make decisions across elections. We estimate the importance of cognitive costs shaping voters’ decision-making processes, final decisions, and electoral outcomes across tiers. We show that simultaneous elections increase political parties’ salience among voters and increase straight-ticket voting with minimal effects on turnout, and no effect on candidate selection. Consequently, the likelihood of the same political party winning constituencies in both tiers increases by 21.6%. We show evidence in favor of our mechanism and find less support for choice fatigue or other conventional mechanisms. These findings suggest that in the presence of behavioral voters, a sequential election design can facilitate more informed decision-making and consequently shape the degree of effective decentralization.
Keywords: Voter behavior, India, Elections, Democracy, Behavioral Political Economy, Decentralization
JEL Classification: D02, D72, D91, H77.
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