Theory and Evidence on the Role of Social Norms in Voting
60 Pages Posted: 21 Apr 2005
Date Written: March 2005
This paper investigates social norms and voting behavior. I argue that social norms create incentives for signaling, i.e., voting for the purpose of being seen at the voting act. Empirical evidence on signaling can be gained by looking at the introduction of optional postal voting in Switzerland. Even though the possibility of mail voting reduced voting costs substantially, it didn't increase turnout. Consistent with my model's predictions, voter turnout decreased more in the smaller communities, but in the meantime, the share of cooperators (= interested voters) was more positively affected there. Therefore, modern voting tools may decrease average turnout, but nevertheless, increase the quality of the voting outcome. Current models predict the opposite, but ignore the effect of different voting systems on the incentive for signaling.
Keywords: Signaling, social norms, voting, mail voting, modern voting tools
JEL Classification: H0, Z13
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation