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Who Misvotes? The Effect of Differential Cognition Costs on Election Outcomes

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Abstract:

If voters have negligible cognition costs, ballot layout should not affect election outcomes. We explore deviations from rational voting using quasi-random variation in candidate name placement on ballots from the 2003 California recall election. We find that minor candidates' vote shares almost double when their names are adjacent to the names of major candidates. All else equal, vote share gains are larger in precincts with higher percentages of poorly educated, poor, or third-party voters. A major candidate that disproportionally attracts voters from such precincts faces an electoral disadvantage. We also explore which voting technology platforms and brands mitigate misvoting.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1257/pol.1.1.229

Publication date: February 1, 2009

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  • American Economic Journal: Economic Policy publishes papers covering a range of topics, the common theme being the role of economic policy in economic outcomes. Subject areas include public economics; urban and regional economics; public policy aspects of health, education, welfare and political institutions; law and economics; economic regulation; and environmental and natural resource economics.
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