Behavioral Voters in a Decentralized Democracy

93 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2020 Last revised: 1 Mar 2022

See all articles by Vimal Balasubramaniam

Vimal Balasubramaniam

Queen Mary University of London; Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR)

Apurav Yash Bhatiya

University of Warwick - Department of Economics

Sabyasachi Das

Ashoka University

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.

Suggested Citation

Balasubramaniam, Vimal and Bhatiya, Apurav Yash and Das, Sabyasachi, Behavioral Voters in a Decentralized Democracy (July 22, 2021). Available at SSRN: or

Vimal Balasubramaniam (Contact Author)

Queen Mary University of London ( email )

Mile End Road
London, London E1 4NS
United Kingdom

Centre for Economic Policy Research (CEPR) ( email )

United Kingdom

Apurav Yash Bhatiya

University of Warwick - Department of Economics ( email )

Coventry CV4 7AL
United Kingdom

Sabyasachi Das

Ashoka University ( email )

Rajiv Gandhi Education City, Plot #2,
Rai, Haryana 131029


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