Behavioral Voters in a Decentralized Democracy
94 Pages Posted: 22 Jul 2020 Last revised: 23 Jul 2021
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 follow separate decision-making processes for different elections. We estimate the importance of cognitive constraints shaping voters’ decision-making processes, final decisions, and electoral outcomes across tiers. Consistent with the predictions of a model of behaviorally constrained voters, we show that simultaneous elections increase political parties’ salience among voters and increase straight-ticket voting without significantly affecting turnout or 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 rule out information overload and choice fatigue as potential mechanisms. Our 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: Suggested Citation