Economic Theory

, Volume 31, Issue 1, pp 51–68 | Cite as

Welfare Reducing Polls

Research Article


We study costly majority voting when voters rationally anticipate others have similar preferences. The correlation in preferences lowers expected turnout because votes have a positive externality on those who abstain. We study the effects of the public release of information (polls) on participation levels. Polls raise expected turnout but reduce expected welfare because they stimulate the “wrong” group to participate resulting in a “toss-up” election. Our novel results highlight the adverse effects of providing information about the electorate’s preferences and may explain why some countries bar opinion polls close to an election date.


Strategic voting Costly participation Correlated preferences Polls Toss-up elections 

JEL classification numbers

C70 D72 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of the Humanities and Social SciencesCALTECHPasadenaUSA
  2. 2.Economics DepartmentPrinceton UniversityPrincetonUSA

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